I am always intrigued by people’s pet peeves. By nature, they are highly personal, but there’s something funny about them well aside from the fact that many of them make no sense:
We KNOW we cannot hold others to our pet peeves…but we kinda WANT to.
Example: I love food, and I love varieties of food, and I love that it should be rich and flavorful. One of my pet peeves is picky eaters. I get irrationally angry about it. Once I met someone who said they did not like garlic and we got into a full on argument about it. While I did (and still do) think highly of this person, I was nigh livid that they didn’t like garlic, and didn’t like to try new foods.
Other pet peeves? People who stand on the walking side of the metro escalator. Sugar-free foods that ought to have sugar (like candy, or anything that uses a “zero-calorie sweetener”) and fat-free foods that really ought to have fat in them (dairy products particularly). Why? Why? WHY? Better not have the food at all than to have it in such a state!
Also, when people have their phones out and in use at the dinner table–whether at a restaurant or at home–the exception being if someone is looking up something everyone at the table wishes to know right then. Otherwise, please oh please, put that phone away and look people in the eye!
Also-also, when kids on tv shows are rude to their parents. I cringe. Even if it’s the punchline, even if it’s supposed to be entertaining…nope, nope, nope.
And I’m sure I have a million other pet peeves, and much sillier ones to boot. These were just off the top of my head.
Why do I mention all this? Because I was looking at a bunch of “bookish pet peeves” the other day and it cracked me up because–for a person who loves books–I have none of them. I have my myriad sillinesses and particular preferences, many far more absurd than any I’m about to list, but none of these book qualms make a lick of sense to me, though I acknowledge them as qualms many wise book-lovers have:
-“Don’t dog-ear a book!” Whoops. I don’t do this often, but if it’s my book that I own, and I’m in a pinch to save a page for specific quote, yeah I’ll do that. And it doesn’t bother me if a book I acquire is dog-eared.
-“Don’t crack the spine!” How are you supposed to not do that?
-“Don’t allow the book to be in bad condition.” A book in “bad” condition has been loved, has it not? By me. By you. By whoever else has handled it. It bears happy wrinkles, and good scars.
-“The covers of a set must match.” I understand this one to a slight degree, but still do not personally care. Most of my sets are comically mismatched because they are made of gifts, hand-me-downs, used-book purchases, etc. I actually kind of like it. Variety is the spice of life!
And here’s a biggie:
-“Don’t write in the book. Don’t underline. Don’t highlight!” I do this ALL the time. Yes, more so for academic non-fiction or anything philosophical/theological. But if a book is really good, and I really love it, I will write in it. Lines. Notes in the margins. Brackets for long sections with triple exclamation points to show my amazement at its poignancy.
On that note, Dorothy L. Sayers wrote this incredible book called “The Mind of the Maker” in which she talks about the “trinity” of the creative endeavors in humans (art particularly, but all works of making): we have the “father” (the core, driving idea which dictates the purpose of the work), the “spirit” (the atmosphere, inspiration, resonance, that which give the core idea wings), and the “son” (the physical manifestation of the work, i.e. the actual book, stage-play, painting, bridge, or building)
One of the things she discussed in this book was the spirit part, the resonance. That once a piece of art or given creation is out there in the world, it has a sort of life that is independent of, yet somehow still intimately tied to, the original maker. People interact with the art. They watch the play, and react with thoughts and emotions. Maybe they write an essay about it. Maybe it brings them to tears. Maybe it inspires them to do their own work. The work reaches out, and they reach back. The work is what it is, permanently, but it is also in ongoing dialogue at the same time–a somewhat Chestertonian paradox, in that it is confusing but plainly true.
It is for this reason that I write in books. I am having a conversation with the author. I am reaching back, answering, thinking, compiling, marking that paragraph so that I might return to it later with better understanding. I am bringing that work along to interact with still others who have something to say on the same topic.
Do I require that others feel the same about this oft frowned-upon habit? Certainly not. But it still holds that I relish a book that shows marks of resonance, and I have no problem adding my own.