Saturday, October 23, 2010

Aimless Reading: The K's, Part 19 (John Knowles)


A Separate Peace
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Knowles, John
A Separate Peace


I think this once belonged to my brother. It's quite old, so I thought it might be the copy I read in high school, but the printing history goes up to 1988, two years after I graduated. The paper seems to be in the early stages of biodegradation--the edges are fuzzy, the surfaces yellow. There is lots of underlining and there are several interesting bits of marginalia.

On the first page is a lovely note:

ambiguous--not clear

At one point, in large block capital letters, the words

X----> SHIFT INTO PAST


are written into a section space between paragraphs.

Another note regards vocabulary words:

convalescence--heal

Another a literary term:

like a candle--simily (sic)

The notes and underlining more or less disappear around page thirty, leading me to believe that perhaps someone didn't finish his homework assignment. A final underlining appears on page 178:

I was not, never had been and never would be a living part of this overwhelmingly solid and deeply meaningful world around me.

There's always something wistful about reading what someone underlines -- or what I have underlined -- in an old book. I like to imagine I can reconstruct their thoughts by reading into their choices, but when I look back at my own notes and underlinings, I see how conditional, provisional, and random most of them are and realize this must also be true of others. If I can't figure out my own thought processes from my notes, how can I discern those of someone else?

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