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On the Treatment of Books

I have chosen to commit a sin.

Okay, stop laughing.  Yes, I commit sins all the time.  Can we move on now?  At least keep the giggling to a minimum.

The sin I’m speaking of has to do with books.  For me books have always been sacred no matter the content.  The concept of a book is sacred and as such I am always careful with my books.  I do my best to minimize damage to the spine of the book.  I don’t fold over or dog ear pages.  I don’t curl over paperback covers.

And I absolutely positively *DO NOT WRITE* inside a book unless it is a workbook or technical manual where highlighting and note taking are expected.

I recently picked up a book from one of my magic mentors, Jeff McBride, called “The Show Doctor.”  This book is written mostly as a sort of philosophical and practical advice column for magicians and would-be magicians, providing information and advice on a lot of different issues that come up for us.  On my recent trip to Virginia (yes, I was caught in Hurricane Sandy during my stay) I read most of “The Show Doctor” and I can say that I have really been learning a hell of a lot from it.

One of the things that Jeff talks about is his bookshelf and his books.  And he points out that you can tell the ones he loves the most by how “loved” they are.  Broken spines.  Dog eared pages.   Worn out covers.

And the writing.  Oh the humanity, scrawls on the pages.

It got me to thinking.  The truth is most magic books are “workbooks and technical manuals.”  The very books I have not hesitated to highlight and write comments inside of in the past.

So why have I hesitated to treat my magic books the same way?  I suppose the easiest explanation is that I wasn’t viewing them the same way.  I was viewing them as “research” books and I’d be damned if I would ever scrawl notes inside a book like that from the public library.  I’m pretty sure the library cops would hunt me down for such a crime.

That and returning a book a day late.

On the plane as I read those words I had a kind of revelation about how I was treating my magic books.  Yes, there are definitely some which will never be blemished by the stroke of a pencil or pen.  But others could be.  The more technical manual type of book seems open to such things just as the technical manuals of my computer industry experience are.

In fact “The Show Doctor” was all but begging for it.  Advice, practical solutions to problems of performance, new routines to play with.  “The Show Doctor” is the book for being written in.

I read Jeff’s words about his library and I moved on.  I read several more pages but his comments kept haunting me.  I looked at the notebook I had with me that I had been jotting down notes from the book about things I wanted to check on.

Forgive me Publisher for I have sinned.

I made a decision and I went back, took up a pencil (I still couldn’t use a pen) and began noting things directly in the book.  I began to underline the phrases that were jumping out at me and smacking me upside the head.  I drew brackets around paragraphs.  I put asterisks and exclamations in the margins for particularly important things.

I have become a book sinner.

But I guess I’m alright with that.  I don’t believe in a great publisher in the sky and besides, Jeff said it was okay.

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