True Writ | Newberry

True Writ

We’ve pretty much figured out your code. If you encrypted really secret messages in it, you should tremble. It wasn’t all that difficult, really. Those pages where you underlined practically every line, and then noted in the margin with a certain number of vertical lines? We figured it out: 1 line is normal, 2 is more important, and 3 lines means what you underlined is vital to your mission. You gave this away by adding an asterisk to some of the three line sections. AND when you thought it was even more important than that, you marked the page with a big old paper clip.

If only we could figure out what it meant when you occasionally highlighted something in yellow, we’d be on our way to that box of gold bricks you buried.

It’s been a month of interesting markings in books. (The gentleman whose code I outline above actually had a SECOND code, for books he didn’t want to mark up by underlining in ink. He’d mark in the margin with one, two, three, or four dots. Also reasonably easy to figure out.) Not all of them are as simple. Was that inscription just your way of being cute, or did you actually know someone named Paola Crayola? I was not as interested by the one where you noted, “I mention your parents on page 89,” but I checked, and I must inform you that this may have resulted in something other than what you expected. Page 89 was missing. Not only did that person NOT want the rest of the book, but this makes us unkind if we try to sell it this July.

Leaving a letter from an insurance company in a book told us a LITLLE about you, especially as it was a book on how to get organized. But we remain mystified by “To Val, with tenderest love from Mom.” Oh, the inscription’s okay, but in Philippe Aries’s history of death? How did you tell the Mother’s Day parties from the Halloween parties, Val?

It would help, too, if you signed your full name. There’s nothing worse than getting a nice book by, say, William Faulkner, and find that someone has written “With all my love and memories of your fried chicken, Bill.” Could you have wasted just enough ink so we know whether that’s Bill Smith or Bill Faulkner? Hate to nag, but it makes a difference to the price.

We LOVE cookbooks where you’ve made notes on how the recipe worked out (we understand, but could do without, stains on the pages. Got one in with a big brown stain on the recipe for head cheese. I don’t even want to think about it.) We think it’s a bonus when we get a book where you’ve registered your opinion but adding little question marks or exclamation points in the margins. Marks which show the book had a life before coming to us are entertaining, so long as they don’t make the book a chore to read. (All that underlining and marginal lining mentioned in the first paragraph were NOT a positive addition to the volumes involved.)

We put a couple of books into the sale despite unnecessary scribbling. We just thought…well, actually we thought “No one will buy this, but I can’t just throw it away.”

One book was a cheap little gift item with one quote about friendship on every page. It was a gift, wasn’t it? Your friends at work or the students in your class gave it to you as a farewell present. That’s why each of them wrote some cliché on a different page and signed the cliche. (By the way, glad you could get away from a group so entirely lacking in imagination.)

Then there was this book of advice to a young person starting that all important first job: glorious little not-too-surprising bits of advice on showing up on time and taking regular baths and laughing when the boss tells a joke. I saw the notes on the pages but I didn’t realize until I looked at the title page that Your Mother actually gave this to you, and added her two cents’ worth wherever she thought it would do you the most good. To the line about showing up for work even if you don’t feel good, she added “But not if you have a fever; no sense making the whole office sick”. And what she wrote after the suggestion that you use the restroom before important meetings is…informative in a way your resume probably was not. What she said about the importance of getting to bed early….

Look, if you want to get the secrets back, the book will be in “How To (Head)” until somebody ELSE decides notes in the margin are fun.

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