Scribbling rivalry

The other day I needed a reference from Paradise Lost. Sometimes people do. For such contingencies, I like to keep at least three copies of the whole poem within reach at all working times, as well as a sprinkling of single-book editions. It’s just better that way.

Anyway, the copy which came to hand the other day was my old Sixth Form edition of Books IX and X, edited by REC Houghton, and first published in 1969, running into seven later editions. I mention this not because it’s important, but because in looking for the book again, I have just realised that I now own three different editions of Houghton’s IX and X, one from the 70s, one from the 80s, and one from the 90s. I also have another three copies of various editions of Books I and II in the same series. Why? This does tend to the deranged.

But it’s not the point. Point is, I happened to grab the edition of Books IX and X that I’d used when I was learning about Milton at school, and, as readers will, I’d annotated it.

But clearly I hadn’t been as attentive as my later-years accretion of Milton texts might suggest. Because rather than line the margins with erudite thoughts on Miltonic syntax and Renaissance theology, I’d adorned my copy with this.

But I’m in reasonable company as one of life’s idle doodlers, as this post from Flavorwire proves.

I think my favourite is Charles Bukowski’s doodle, which is it self unintelligible, and was drawn at the bottom of a letter to an magazine called Sycamore Review which says:

Of course, with a magazine entitled Sycamore Review you’re going to get a lot of “Good Doggie” poems. Also poetry has long been “good doggie “stuff. It’s an inbred style from the centuries. After all, a poem ain’t no good unless it’s pretty and calm and not very understandable. Poetry, they think, is supposed to be a quiet yawn. And it is. Nobody gets excited about poetry. Nobody can. Well….

After which follows a drawing of what might be a man with a large nose and a bottle, or just a mammoth’s head with a bottle. Or a man’s head with a lopsided beard with a bottle. But whatever it is it’s pretty and calm and not very understandable.

At the top of  her diary, Sylvia Plath drew  a woman falling down, yelling “I need to get away,” and being chased by a hot dog, a marshmallow, and some nightmares, which very closely resemble the marshmallow and the hot dog. Which seems ominous, except that she was only thirteen at the time (going by the date on the diary) and may well have mistaken the opossum and coyote native to her then home of Winthrop Massachusetts for personified hot dogs and marshmallows.

In the most-juvenille doodling category, the prize goes to David Foster Wallace for having drawn glasses and fangs on Cormac MacCarthy. If he’d have know McCarthy had the power to end the world, DFW might have exercised more circumspection. “And he drew on me a pair of glasses and a set of hokey-lookin’ fangs, so’s I looked like some howlin lunatic in a forrest of burnt out dreams. And they were the last glasses in the world. And they were the last fangs.”

Now look what you’ve done, David.

~ by David Thorley on February 8, 2011.

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