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Friday, 12 July 2013

Jenny Harrison on scrawling in books

Do you deface books?
Some time ago, a little old lady (I’m assuming it was a little old lady, because little old ladies sometimes do strange things. It could have been a little old man but I don’t think little old men get their knickers in a knot like little old ladies do. Anyway...)
Let’s start again...
Some time ago a little old lady, taking books out of our local library, started a campaign whereby she (she, he...see above) crossed out the word God whenever and wherever she found it.
‘Oh, my God,’ he yelled.
See what I mean? Whenever the word God was written, out came her pen.
And, no, ‘twas not I.
I suspect library staff traced her through her loan history, for shortly thereafter the crossings-out stopped. I believe she may be sharing a cell - in leg-irons - with a mass murderer or two.
So, is it ever okay to annotate or mark a book with your private opinions, etc? I have to confess, I have done it and I bet you have too. Ever seen an awful grammatical error and not been tempted? Garn! Confess!
I scribbled furiously in Helen Long’s book Safe Houses are Dangerous, published in 1985 by William Kimber & Co. Writing about Dunkirk she blatantly states: ‘Although evacuating some 336,000 troops, the British did abandon and allow to fall into enemy hands, several thousand French troops. British troops....’. According to more accurate recording, 198,000 BEF and 140,000 French troops were evacuated. 40,000 French were ordered by their own command to stand fast and protect the beaches of Dunkirk. My scribbling was fast and furious. My own book, so it was probably okay.
I also have a penchant for crossing out “less people” and adding “fewer”. (I hear the plod-plod of police boots.)
Now, we come to a more delicate matter. When you buy and read my book, Rusty and Slasher’s Guide to Crime, you are at liberty to deface the book to your heart’s content. I say this because you may very likely have another pet name for the male appendage (see how Victorian I can be?) Rusty and Slasher call it Mr. Jolly. If that offends you, you are welcome to draw a line through it, Mr Jolly, and replace it with the name of your choice. 
But if you have borrowed the book from your local library, please refrain.
Yours on the run,
Jenny Harrison

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