Roger Rosenblatt's written a really interesting article in TIME's January 29, 2001 issue. The subject is marginalia, and the way people are always commenting and noting things, internally or otherwise; the concept that nothing is final.

Every thought breeds an internal commentary, a counterthought (not always), some elaboration on the initial matter. Every action taken incurs an inner comment. (Every action?) Everything we are is under continual revision. We even live in the margins of one another's lives. (Prove it!)
Besides for the article itself being very interesting, Rosenblatt has also marked it up with notes, these I have (parenthesised and underlined).

And this is what I have decided - E2 is not a BBS, nor is it a database, nor is it a community. No, it is none of these but all together, and it is one mass documentation of marginalia. We read nodes, and go Hrmph... What is softlinking, if not our own little jotting down of ideas?

...Friends would deliberately lend Coleridge their books, knowing he would mark them up endlessly. Thus, the lenders would be getting back a book improved by Coleridge.

...Other writers were known for their relentless annotations too... but quality that high is rare. We take a book out of the library, and read the marginalia, often surly and stupid, of anonymous strangers. (Thanks a heap!) The fun, though, is to respond to them, by which we perpetuate the argument and extend the text. (Back to the thesis, at last?)

Or, one can simply respond to the language and doodle: thesis, Croesus, Jesus. (Jesus!)

And this is more of Everything. The arguments, the give and take. The essays, noded from multiple perspectives, the nodeshell challenges, Everything. It's all marginalia, and I like it. Because this is the way our minds work, and this is documentation of it, and this is people and more people marking up the text of our lives.

Of course, another sort of marginalia is the scholion. A Greek word, this, meaning a marginal note usually specifically intended to explain something to do with grammar or an obscure meaning. You find them throughout mediaeval manuscripts.

Sometimes, only the scholia are preserved, collected in separate scrolls (bear in mind that early mediaeval books were rolled up as scrolls, not bound volumes). This may lead to the curious situation where the original work is lost, but the commentary survives, giving us only a hint of the nature of the original work.

Marginalia

Oh and I
decry,
the death of
myth and
tribe, all more
taxing as days
pass, leaving as they do
a residue of
complacency to
tarnish any thought
of possibility
through doubt
and resistance
through some
bold action
all the heroes seem
hobos or slaves
I respect
no one, least
myself
railing against
ghosts from
down in the
basement somewhere
scared of clear air
and public
randomness

but oh! I
suspect the
gods inside
will exact
revenge
through unconscious
slights, wakeful
nights, and
the loss of wonder
reverie
exhilaration
last laugh
to those who
suspected my wish
for an original life
was another form
of laziness,
quixotic, naive

BUT OH! it once was
and still could
be, with a
rebirth of myths and
tribes, hero- scribes,
bold actions
and humans being
outside
the possibility demands
more hands
and less eyes
more plans
and less rye
more thought
and less sighs
just the same the suns set
moons rise

Mar`gi*na"li*a (?), n. pl. [NL.]

Marginal notes.

 

© Webster 1913.

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