top of page

Confession

26 November 2023


I have a confession to make. I write in, tear up, and cut up books - some of them perfectly new and in great shape. (Don't worry, I read many more than I destroy.)


Like most students in college, I wrote in and marked up my textbooks. But, being an English major, I learned to write in the margins of novels. If I had a thought about the passage I was reading, I wanted that thought to stay close in proximity to the words. No rifling through notes. The habit of marking up novels hasn't left me. I also love buying a used book and finding that others had comments to make. (Poet, Billy Collins has written a great poem about marginalia and can be accessed by clicking on this link.)

In 1989, I was teaching high school English and trying to read classics that I had not made it through yet. I had an old, battered copy of The House of Seven Gables that the pages were


falling out of. (Yes, I know I left a preposition at the end of the sentence without an object, but "out of which the pages were falling" sounds a bit pretentious here. Once an English teacher, always and English teacher.) While reading, the book literally began to fall apart. I started throwing away the pages I had finished. The House of Seven Gables has a slow beginning and is a bit of a slog, but jettisoning pages became a way to make progress, and I enjoyed the feeling of tearing up a book, something no respectful English teacher would ever do.

An explanation of The Leatherstocking Tales, which includes The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper was part of the curriculum I was teaching. I usually fall on the side of reading a book over watching a movie, but the movie of The Last of the Mohicans is a thousand times better than the book. I attempted to read the whole series, but never accomplished it. Still, this was the first time I purposely found a cheap copy of the titles in the series and began ripping out the pages as I read them.

Presently, I am tearing up a copy of Gulliver's Travels.


Cutting up books is a more recent habit. In the past five years or so, I have come to love collage more and more. To collage, one must have images. Magazines are a great way to find those, but so are books, especially art books. I thrift for books with great images. I bought a book the other day because of one particular image I saw that I wanted. I also order used books from Amazon with the express purpose of cutting them up. I sit down, usually while a mindless program is playing on the television, take a book in hand, rip out the pages I want, throw the now broken and bleeding book in the trash, pick up my scissors, and start trimming the images. And then, I go to my studio and create like a mad artist.


(Please do not unfriend me for destroying books. You might give it a try yourself.)



(This image was created from a couple of art books and three different magazines.)





122 views5 comments

5 Comments

Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I am impressed with people who love to read (or make the time to do so). I have absorbed more books in the past 3 years than the prior 60 combined. I can't say I have read them because it is all all thanks to Audible. However, long drives to the ranch are now much more enjoyable and productive. So ... I don't tear out any pages in my books, but I'll think of my cousin who does! :)

Like

Guest
Nov 27, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Struggling too much now to read much of anything. But I do love all the collage effects that I see online. Struggling with crafts and everything else too sadly. One day ... will be whole again <3 Thanks SueAn - You Are AMAZING!!!

Like
Replying to

Sending jugs and prayers.

Like

Guest
Nov 26, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Oh my!

Do HS English lit books bleed

red ink?

Like

Guest
Nov 26, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I might have to try this! Thriftbooks is such a dangerous store for me, books acquired so cheaply! Great article, thank you.

Like
bottom of page