This may be controversial, but I’m going to come right out and say it: I have never understood the book-reading community’s hatred of the dog ear. Perhaps, as a messy person, I am predisposed to this opinion. Perhaps, I was indoctrinated into it by my grandfather (of blessed memory) who comforted me one Passover evening when I spilled the wine left over from seder all over my brand new copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles by saying that books are meant to be read, and that a well-read book should have wine and coffee spilled on it, have its spine broken, and indeed, have many, many dog-eared pages. A well-loved book, he said, one that has been carried around in your pocket and read in a variety of questionable locations, takes as much from you as it gives. It grows with the blood and sweat and tears you leave in it (and whatever you spill in it) until, by the end of the reading, it is twice as thick as it was when you started. I have adhered to this philosophy ever since. Give me a well-worn book over a Gatsby’s library-like display copy with its pages still stuck together. Still, it seems as if–at least in the circles in which I run–I am in the minority.
Still, there are some books which I don’t usually dog-ear: Library books, for example, and sometimes a first-edition hard cover from a favorite author. Recently, this practice got me in trouble.
I have been reading Marlon James’ new book Moon Witch, Spider King the sequel to his Black Leopard, Red Wolf, one of my favorite recent fantasy novels. As my copy is a first printing, first edition, I had not been dog-earing the pages, rather I’ve been using a variety of makeshift bookmarks, ranging from receipts, to business cards, to strips of toilet paper. The book sits on my nightstand and I usually read it in bed, right before I go to sleep.
A couple of weeks ago, I came across a quote I wanted to remember. I did not have a pen or my phone handy, and being tired, I did not want to get out of bed and go looking for one. Normally, I would have dogeared the page to mark the page where the line was (I usually dog-ear the bottom of the page to mark a quote, rather than the top, which I use to mark my place in the book), but with this book being a first edition, first printing, I was hesitant and gave into societal pressure. I fumbled around for a bookmark, and found a punch card for a tea shop in a neighborhood I haven’t lived in for five years, marked the page using that, and kept reading until the next section break, which I marked with the receipt I had been using as my main bookmark. I then placed the book atop the pile of books on my nightstand, and went to sleep.
I woke up the next morning to find my stack of books had been knocked over during the night (I suspect the cat), and the books that had been at the top had toppled onto the floor. I picked them up in the morning, but the bookmark I had used to mark the page where the quote was found had fallen out. I had read over 50 pages the previous night, and I knew it would be extremely difficult for me to find the quote–something about waiting or not waiting for a reason to run away from a bad situation–would be slim if I did not reread the entirety of what I had read the night before.
If I had just dogeared the page, I would have been able to find the quote easily.