‘Laura’ — People Who Write in Library Books Should Be Shot


In researching “Laura,” I borrowed Gerald Pratley’s “The Cinema of Otto Preminger” from the Los Angeles Public Library, only to discover that some idiot had scrawled through the entire book. The individual who committed this crime spent lots of time underlining random words and drawing lines in the margins, with a continuing descant of arguing with the author, rendering the book virtually unreadable.

There are those who hail marginalia as the loftiest poetry of the human soul and bemoan the rise of tablets and other devices that deprive a reader of marking up a text. I am not one of them. It’s nothing but selfish vandalism – at least in a book that one does not own.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in Books and Authors, Film, Libraries and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to ‘Laura’ — People Who Write in Library Books Should Be Shot

  1. juliemerholz says:

    Since I am against ANYONE anywhere having a gun I wouldn’t shoot them, but I would flog them!


  2. staciakj says:

    Having accidentally donated books to the library that I notated and intended to keep, sometimes I wonder if that happens more often than we realize. P.S. Sorry everyone who got that scribbled-in copy of A YEAR IN THE DARK! My bad!


  3. Eve says:

    Omigawd, Mabel, I HATE that. I have had to return library books because they were written in, highlighted, and occasionally had bugs or SOMETHING EVEN WORSE squashed in them. Still, giver me a nice free library book over those mechanical doohickeys the kids are usin’ nowadays.


    • Lee Rivas says:

      My wife started using one of those mechanical doohickeys and regaled me with all of its advantages. I said “no.” So good wife that she is, she bought me one anyway (with full wi-fi capabilities).

      I hate it, but only use it for its free offerings and cheaper kindle edition prices.

      However, like you, I believe there is nothing like a real book in my hands and not in some “cloud” controlled by others and available only through my specific mechanical doohickey.

      For important offerings I still opt for a book–hardcover preferably.


      • mandymarie20 says:

        I agree. I only use my Kindle for apps and free books. There is just something about the physical book that is magical. The feel, smell, weight – you can almost feel the soul of the book and those who worked on it. They are my passion (or clutter, if you ask my family).


      • lmharnisch says:

        My copy of “Laura” is from 1942/43 and has an ad for War Bonds on the dust jacket. It is only the Book Club edition, alas, but it’s a treat to see places in the text where lead spacer between words left a tiny mark. And the editing is letter perfect. Today’s books can be so sloppy. Out of the entire book, I think there is one minor flaw (ain,t instead of ain’t). That’s it.


  4. Gretchen says:

    Your book-scribbler would be a troll in the Internet age, wouldn’t he? Always arguing and sparking a controversy, even in the margins of books he doesn’t own. Too bad you can’t scroll past the marginalia.


  5. JAMES says:

    I don’t know why you say it’s unreadable. I could just ignore the markings. What I hate is torn out pages. I recently read a biography of Elvis that had 10 pages tore out. Now I have to find another of the same title to see what I missed.


  6. mandymarie20 says:

    I HATE writing in books. It is considered a window into the soul, but I find it to be vandalism and desecration. Books are sacred to me, and I can’t abide writing or highlighting in books. I’d much rather takes notes in a notebook. If you reread a book, lack of notation is nice because you are not hindered by your previous opinions and notes and are free to enjoy the book fully – without preconceptions and distractions.

    Having worked in a library, this writing could have been a prior condition. Donated books are often full of that sort of thing and as librarians we often don’t have enough time to catch everything or have the time to repair everything before it is added to the collection. If you let your librarian know, they will of ten try to repair that sort of thing. I know I spent hours erasing and writing out this sort of thing. If written in pen however, it usually stays unless the text is vulgar. In many cases the book is too ruined for others to enjoy so we have to purchase a new copy. What one person considers time saving, ruins it for everyone else.


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