For a long while after that the only sounds were that of Skander’s book falling to his lap and he was quite asleep, and the tinselly rustle of the fire that was slowly putting Margaret to sleep as well...

I'm sure you have at least once in your life experienced that awful moment when, in a hurry, distracted from your book, trying to accommodate the haste of another, you let your book drop shut. Without the bookmark. I'm sure you know that awful moment in which you stared paralyzed at your tome, willing the bookmark to be in the book, unable to actually believe what has happened. Then you click into motion again. Nothing else matters. The scramble for the bookmark ensues, the scramble for your place, the hopeless wailing in your head which only you can hear. You had been wrapped up in the story: you can't remember what page you were on, or what chapter number you had just passed. All that mattered before was the story. Even the book itself had ceased to exist until that fateful moment when you let it close (like locking a door with the keys on the wrong side) without its bookmark in place.

Bookmarks get very little press or appreciation, yet they are so very important. You never appreciate them until they are suddenly not there, and then the fate of the entire world hangs upon the recovery of a small card of paper which your mother may or may not have slipped into the trash, mistaking it for...trash. Nobody else understands, of course. The world is a very hard-hearted place. This is a terror which must be experienced to be understood. Poor little bookmarks. I love them so.

Bookmarks come in a variety of breeds, and they are not a very proud or pompous lot. You can find them in many shapes and sizes. Some are three-by-five index cards. Some are ripped-off pieces of college-ruled paper. Some are napkins folded over and severely crumpled. Some are those sheeny, odd advertisement bookmarks that Amazon and Alibris are fond of stuffing in along with your order. Some are sticky-notes. They could be disused coin sheaths, or a letter from a friend. In short, anything small and remotely papery may or may not be recruited into the ranks of bookmarkery. Oftentimes bookmarks are whatever comes easily to hand when you need to put your book down. They are usually unassuming and not always very pretty, which fact is largely responsible for their being so thoroughly taken for granted.

I have quite a horror of laying books open on their faces. It isn't good for their spines and I like my books to be well looked after and to last long. So I use bookmarks, and I am very proud of my bookmarks. They aren't expensive or grand (in fact, they are a little eccentric), but they do the job and I love them. The one which looks like a calling-card for Hollister Jeans had been keeping my place in Howl's Moving Castle, but having finished that it is waiting for a new book. The advertisement card for Twinings chai tea is matched up with Of the Imitation of Christ right now (the reds and golds look so nice together). The bookmark with the red tassel and the painting of King Peter (the Magnificent) is keeping my place in the first chapter of God the Center of Value, and the tasseled, Celtic bookmark is holding my place in time and bookishness within The Golden Warrior. I discovered that the brand tags for jeans make excellent bookmarks: Red Rivet Jeans is a thick, card-stock fellow with pretty type and a black ribbon: he holds my place in The Art of Medieval Hunting; my grey L.E.I bookmark with its tattered white ribbon is holding place in Blood Feud, and my lace-woven L.A.L. tag is waiting patiently in David Copperfield.

I know them all and I am very fond of them. I am heartbroken when any of them gets misplaced, but thankfully they seem to love me too, since they always turn back up again. They are as dear to me as the books I read, and very much like companions, always there reading with me (though I fear they get a very disjointed view of the content of my books, as I don't insert them in every page as I go). There may be no frigate like a book, but without The American Practical Navigator of bookmarks sailing would be rough.

Appreciate your bookmarks!

8 ripostes:

  1. I love bookmarks! I've only ever collected 2 things: books and bookmarks. The very first time I won a story contest (I think was 8), I used the resulting gift certificate to buy a bookmark. I have homemade bookmarks, the ever-faithful college-ruled sliver of paper, sticky-notes cut into strips, paperclips, business cards, library receipts, and the occasional store-bought bookmark. Your list made me grin; I saw so much of the graphomaniac! I never fold the corner over and--shudder--I avoid laying it open on its face. When I don't have a handy bookmark, though, I memorize the page number. I know it's not the most failproof method, but surprisingly, I seem to have a good memory for it! Thanks for the post. It's good to know others have similar idiosyncrasies! And I loved your creative recycled bookmarks, some of which I've never considered!

  2. This was a fun post to read! I love all the kinds of items you use for bookmarks :). Honestly, I really don't use bookmarks very much (except with reading devotional books or large biographies), since with a novel, I usually finish reading it within the space of a week/fortnight at the most and so I seem to easily remember where I had last read (even if I forgot to look at the pg. no.!). It isn't a fail-proof method as Yaasha Moriah said, but most times I don't have trouble with it, and then I don't need to have the fear of losing the bookmark in the first place.

    Having said that, I love bookmarks for themselves =D. The most common kind of bookmarks found about in the house are the white and green labels from the tea box which dad uses a lot with his books. Oh yes, I get scared placing books on their faces too, though I think a few times I did it :).

    By the way, Jenny, I got The Shadow Things in the mail last week and read it all in the space of 2 days I think! It is a lovely book, I am glad I read it. I especially love the character of Indi :). I especially like that theme of "shadow things". May I guess that this idea was influenced a bit by C.S. Lewis' writings (the Last Battle in particular)? P.S. I hope to make a review for it on my blog soon Lord willing.

    In His love,
    ~Joy @

  3. Ahahahaha! Bookmarks. Lovely little things when one can find them. When one can't of course, there is always a corner of paper, a napkin (as you said), ribbons, string, and even--on *very* desperate occasions--a scrap of toilet-paper. It sounds awful when you say it, but it's really no different than a tissue, which I've also had to use. Gracious. Perhaps I shouldn't have admitted to using such a thing. You may delete this comment at any point in time! :D

  4. It's odd, because I was just thinking of bookmarks and how I rarely use them. Proper ones, that is. But then from the tenor of your inimitably charming post you know all about that!

    Actually, backtrack. "The Mystery of the Blue Train" happens to boast a large and rather exquisite Frog and Toad at the moment marking chapter 25. Exception that proves the rule, I suppose, and all that.


  5. I seem to be exhibiting a fair amount of clairvoyance today. Abigail called my up shortly after I posted this and informed me of the weirdness of it, as she was just thinking of making a post on the same. I've known for a long time that I've got a knack for inadvertently wandering into other people's minds, but this is really quite remarkable. Two, in one day!

    I wouldn't feel too bad, Rachel, about using toilet paper. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Although, one can't exactly be proud of a toilet paper bookmark. It makes it rather awkward to pull a book out and begin reading in public...

    I being to see what you mean.

    Some people can remember numbers. I can't. Numbers are one of those things I can't see. They make a beautiful blank in my mind, which is hastily filled in by words and pictures and generally hushed up as if numbers never happened. I feel sorry for numbers, but we still don't get along. You can remember page numbers, but in such a pinch I have to use my finger as a bookmark, and wander the house like Caesar crying for Varus in search of a proper marker.

  6. I generally use location cards from the old Middle-earth collectible card game, because while you only need one of each to actually play the game and I have dozens of duplicates, I can't seem to bring myself to get rid of them (I don't tend to hoard things, but small rectangles of printed cardboard are a particular weakness). So I have a near-endless supply always at hand, plus there is some really gorgeous artwork.

    For my at-work books, however, I have a beribboned sliver of aluminum embossed with an apropos Churchill quote, which someone was thoughtful enough to give me as a gift.

  7. I agree. Bookmarks do tend to be severely under appreciated.
    And I'm afraid some of my own (and rather quite nice ones) tend to get forgotten.
    I mostly use my Narnia ones, and my lovely fairy one...when I actually use them, that is. I must say, I do have a store clothing tag saving the place in one of my books right now, too.
    I like to use business cards sometimes. Nice sturdy lot, them. But, I have also been known to use the occasional gum or cough drop wrapper, too.

  8. Ahh! I'm so glad to have visited your blog today. This post about the bookmarks... ah! EXCELLENT. I've always somewhat thought about bookmarks in this way, but you certainly have expounded on this in a wonderful way. They certainly do come in a variety of breeds. Love this post!
    ~ Tarissa
    { In the Bookcase }