Posted in Lessons by The Books Production Team on October 24, 2008


typewriter9          While some cultural purists argue that works of true artistic genius should never be tampered with, I’m of the opinion that adding your own personal, modern touch to the classics is a great way to make them more relevant and idiosyncratically memorable.  As such, I happen to be a huge fan of Ten Things I Hate about You, The Grey Album, and pictures of the Last Supper where the Wu-Tang Clan has been photo-shopped in to kick it like Jesus and the twelve apostles.  I mean, it’s not as if Julia Stiles has destroyed the original Folio copy of Taming of the Shrew, Danger Mouse has permanently dubbed over The Beatles’ master-tapes with Jay-Z lyrics, or Ghostface Killah has broken into the Santa Maria delle Grazie and pasted pictures of Method Man and Rza onto Leonardo da Vinci’s frescoed masterpiece.  So, to all you modern-day Matthew Arnolds out there, I say chill the fuck out and let a Philistine player play.

          Whatever your stance on the issue, let me hammer home the fact that the practical extension of this philosophy is doubly true for the Penguin and Oxford Classics versions of your literature textbooks (and also for your Organic Chemistry book – if you consider that a work of true artistic genius).  Students who are successful in college have learned the following trick when they sit down to do their course reading: they say “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La Da,” brush the dirt off their shoulders, and use a highlighter and a pen to mark their textbooks all to hell.

          “Now, Dr. Wizard,” you might find yourself asking at this point, “why is this the case?”  Well, since it’s my job to do so, I’ll just tell you.  You see, at some point in the semester, whether it is for class discussion, your final exam, or your final paper (see Lesson #20), you’re going to have to go back to the material you studied at an earlier date for information.  If you’ve highlighted the author’s major points and the important quotes, and if you’ve taken the time to note while reading Sin in the Second City that Protestant Chicago’s reactions to massive immigration in the early twentieth-century mirror current legislative attempts to remove illegal immigrants from Chicago, you’ll be miles ahead of the competition.

          “But what if,” you might again find yourself asking, “I go to a school with one of those extremely stupid textbook rental systems, where I’m required to turn my books back in at the end of the semester?”  Well, just like Socrates, I’ll respond to your question with a few of my own.

          Have you ever noticed how busy the textbook rental facility is at the end of the semester?  Have you ever watched how carelessly the student workers check to see whether or not the books you’ve returned are in mint condition?  Do they ever look beyond the condition of the cover in a half-hearted attempt to simply make sure you haven’t spilled six cups of coffee on the book?  And if so, do they just do that cursory flip through the pages where the only possibilities of malfeasance they could detect are blatant, enormous pen scratches on the very tips of the pages?  Of course not; textbook rental answers these questions just like Amy Winehouse responds to Rehab – No, No, No.  But if you happen to go to a school where the answer to one of these questions is Yes, the solution is simply to make your comments on the book’s inside margins.  Not only will your cleverness never be detected, the student who borrows the book from the University the following semester will be thankful for the work you have already done.  And if you happen to run into some Book Nazi who insists on perusing every page, just yell and scream that “those notes were already in the book when I started reading it.”  Trust me, this works.  Ultimately, the workers in the textbook rental system are cognizant enough of their own general carelessness and incompetence to believe your argument if you’re forceful enough in your protest.

          So, the bottom line of today’s lesson is simple: writing in your textbooks equals better grades.  As a college student in the modern world, trying to balance academic, social, and personal responsibilities, you may find that you’ve got 99 problems – but if you follow this guideline, your books ain’t one of ‘em.


6 Responses

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  1. Barry H said, on October 24, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Using the same Amy Winehouse joke 2 posts in a row? Seems a little bush-league, Wiz.

  2. drwizard said, on October 24, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    Well Barry, some people say that variety is the spice of life; I say that consistency is the hallmark of a champion.

  3. MS said, on October 24, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    1. I would love to bare-knuckles box Matthew Arnold, almost as much as I’d like to slap Oliver Cromwell with a driving-glove. (muttering expletives under my breath)…

    2. This lesson does not translate to library books. At least not until you’re a grad student. Seriously, I don’t want to know that you thought 98% of Derrida’s Of Grammatology was worthy of highlighting when you were a junior because a) it’s not, and b) you’re still kind of incompetent. Of course you thought 98% of it was important, because 98% of that 98% confused the hell out of you (which in the undergrad mindset means that it’s really smart).

    3. Hey Socrates, what’s up with the slave chains attached to the bed. You dirty hornball, those better not be for Plato. And come to think of it, why isn’t anyone writing down whatever it is that you’re into enough to make a grand gesture towards the heavens, while bare chested nonetheless?

    4. In regards to the updated Da Vinci: Yo, where all the white women at?

  4. Chris said, on October 24, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    I have to say, I enjoyed checking out books at Pius the day before a paper was due, only to find that someone who had taken the class the previous semester had already done all the research for me. I can’t recall how many theses were changed last-minute just to accomodate the passages already highlighted in my checked out books.

  5. Greece Lightning said, on October 25, 2008 at 7:47 am

    Everything is better when mixed with the Wu-Tang. RIP, ODB…or BBJ, which fits the picture a little better.

  6. Cooper Manning said, on October 27, 2008 at 7:05 pm


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