Friday, September 10, 2010


When I read a book, it's very rare that I use a bookmark. I'll usually lay the book down on the nearest available surface, pages down and open to wherever I left off. Often I'll read a book start to finish in one sitting, which negates the need for a bookmark, or I'll be re-reading something and not care where I pick up. If I know the story, and am not wholly invested in getting every detail, I start on random pages and just go for awhile. This may be strange, but it's just how I roll.

I always see bookmarks for sale at Barnes and Noble or Borders, but I know very few people who actually use them. My father has always marked his pages with a golf scorecard. My mother started doing this as well, but sometimes will use a receipt or other handy piece of paper. You can learn something about a person based on how they mark their books. For example, my father plays golf and my mother buys things. Those are mundane observations, but actually look at the scorecard or the receipt and you'll see what my mother buys or how well my father golfs (though he does have a tendency to use the best scorecards as his bookmarks, so his talent may be a bit exaggerated). People who dog-ear pages have no respect for the integrity of the book. I hate dog-earing, although I'm not averse to highlighting a book if the mood strikes me. This makes no sense to me.

I checked out a couple of David Sedaris books from the library and when I cracked open the second one, I found two folded pages from a SkyMall magazine. I unfolded them and started looking at the items on those two pages. First of all, I adore SkyMall and love perusing it whenever I'm flying. It contains the most useless shit that anyone could ever possibly purchase. These pages advertise personalized maps and puzzles, three different pieces of Mobius jewelry, a bear in a suitcase, a "personal fireplace," and an alarm clock that "wakes you first with the sound of gentle birdsong, then a discreet cough and the comforting" voice of a butler. That last one gets me, primarily because the voice of the butler is provided by Stephen Fry.

This got me thinking about celebrity endorsements and the depths to which famous people sink. I'm not judging; if someone paid me to put my voice on an alarm clock I'd say whatever they wanted me to say, provided the price was right. But Stephen Fry! Hugh Laurie blew up in America as the star of House, and poor Stephen Fry was left looking for work in the butler alarm clock voice business, which I wasn't even aware existed until now. And then I thought about the people I went to school with, and worked with in my few jobs up until now, and wondered whatever became of them. Their paths and mine were radically different, so why shouldn't Hugh Laurie star in a massively successful television medical drama and his former co-star record a voice for an alarm clock? Maybe he's happy with it. Maybe they gave him a free clock, or a few to give to friends and family. Although I don't think I'd want to wake up to my brother's voice in the morning, so maybe that's not the best perk.

In wondering what the person who previously checked out this book was shopping for in SkyMall, I was trying to paint a picture of the type of person who would also read this book. But why can't I do that with the book itself? I know who likes reading David Sedaris: members of the NPR set. Smart people. I consider myself a smart person. I'm trying to decipher the book's previous reader, but I'm also looking for clues about myself--things that we have in common, this anonymous person who read the same book and I. That's when I realize what the bookmark is trying to tell me: I sure as hell wouldn't buy something from a SkyMall catalog, but I have to show this to someone else, I have to tear it out to prove that this object exists, and some part of me will be disappointed when I realize I left it in a library book.

1 comment:

  1. I love all your posts about Calvin and motherhood, but I think this one is definitely my favorite.