I do, but I wouldn’t class myself with the likes of Sylvia Plath, Vladimir Nabokov and Mark Twain, to name just a few famous marginalians (if that’s not a word, it is now!). And so, I enjoyed a recent article, titled “Marginal”, which you can read online in The New Yorker. It’s written by Ian Frazier, an American writer and humorist (according to Wikipedia).
Since my last post was rather long, I won’t bore you with a long one this time. You’d be far better off spending your precious time reading the article yourself. It is short, just over a page, and well worth reading for its little survey of the marginalia practices of some of our best known writers.
Here are some things you’ll discover:
- Coleridge used abbeviations such as LM for “ludicrous metaphor”!(This is apparently known as “hostile marginalia”.) I use shorthand too – but I’m far more boring than this. My marginalia tends more to the descriptive than the “critical”, though I might occasionally be moved to write something like “What the?”!
- Mark Twain was a voluminous marginalia scribbler, and he too could be less than positive at times, writing on one occasion that “A cat could do better literature than this”.
- Nabokov “graded” the stories in an anthology from The New Yorker. He gave Shirley Jackson‘s “The lottery” an A … but you’ll have to read the article for yourself to see to whom he gave A+!
And so, do you write marginalia? If you do, do you always do it and what form does yours take? If you don’t, why don’t you?