Friday, April 27, 2007

The Highlights of Reading

I am dissatisfied with all the colours that they have available on highlighters: the obviously garish and aggressively fluorescent yellow, blue, red, green, pink and now purple, orange and god knows what else on the way. The reason is that all the colours are rough on the eyes. Smearing their coloured nozzles against the page sometimes makes me cringe because the highlighted words suddenly look mean, angry even. And after the effluxion (always wanted to use this sexy word) of time they look distinctly ugly on the page several years later. Like a frumpy dress that was once in vogue but now can't be taken off. The only merit to them is that they are convenient and easy to use. I just wished the colours were not so potently fluorescent, a little more subdued and humble. The colours should not be like gangsters that mob and pummel your eyes to pay attention. They should be like a slow sensual seduction that lures your eyes to linger and explore those meaningfully important portions.

The better way to 'highlight' I think is the old fashioned way - underlining; a ruler, a red ballpoint pen and a pencil (or mechanial pencil) is all you need. Don't bother using ink pens to underline because then you're going to get very dirty hands and mess up your ruler (and it doesn't matter if it's wood, steel or plastic). And when people see your hands full of ink, chances are they'll probably think you're a bit on the slow side (how else does this moron get ink all of his fingers, face and shirt?). The underlining method is most effective because it forces you to sit up and take your reading material seriously. You cannot underline without a flat surface. You can highlight while flat on your back with the book hovering directly above you in the air.

Keeping to one colour would ensure that you do not get caught up with decorating and ensuring all your highlighted portions are colour coordinated and matching and end up not reading a damn thing. There are a class of people who have such fantastic and exciting looking notes. There are notations in the margins. The highlights are so well coordinated and agreeable that you tend to think it was almost Warholian. But if you asked them anything about what they highlighted and noted so meticulously, they can tell you absolutely nothing except perhaps for the brands of highlighters they use.

The pencil is for notes. I use them to write words whose meanings I don't understand nearby the word. Or sometimes, I scribble some thought or emotion a passage provoked or want to make it clear that I enjoyed a certain passage for future reference. Some people don't like to write on books because they want it clean and pristine, virginal almost. I'm not like that. In fact, I think one must claim their books by writing on them, paging through them often and carrying them around with you (I always carry a book wherever I go). Once you do that, no other book will be like yours. And for me, I prefer reading books where people jot down notes or thoughts on their book because it tells you what they felt at the time, perhaps where they were coming form or even where certain thoughts might point to. It also enriches your reading because it provokes ideas, new lines of thought and perhaps sheds insight to a particular issue. Your own notes also serve as anchors to help you shape your thoughts about the book.

But that's if you're rajin (diligent) lah.

[Daef's Recommendations: How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren]

1 comment:

Noreen said... are banned from borrowing my books. :P