When I was 19 I lived in El Paso Texas. I could only afford to buy one small meal a day, but somehow I scrounged together the 50 cent fee for an old, heavily used, edition of the select poetry and prose of Alexander Pope. Not that Pope was of particular interest to me.
I had some vague recollection of The Rape of the Lock from a high school English class and I loved the idea of “classic” literature. I’d seen Dead Poets Society. Literature changes lives! I’d suffered through some Shakespeare….. But the real reason I had to buy this book was because of all of the index cards paper clipped throughout so much of the back portion of the book. The faded ink scribbles in the margin intrigued me as well. Here was someone who had dedicated themselves whole-heartedly to understanding the works of Pope. The reader’s work seemed more interesting than the text. Unfortunately, I can’t make out the handwriting for the most part and where I can read it, I don’t get the reference. I figured I’d have to take on the study of Pope somewhere along the way in order to decipher the points made by a previous scholar. I’m 36 and still haven’t taken on this project…so I’m thinking I’ll probably just continue to admire the scribbles for what they might mean and let them inspire other ideas. The book is visually a work of art to me with the writing and the browning pages and rusty paper clips. So I’m content with that and knowing that even at a young age, when I was starving, I still valued a book above food.