Suspend Your Disbelief

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Doodles of Famous Authors

Perhaps it’s pure nostalgia, but here on the blog we’ve been keeping a running list of things we lose when a book moves from physical object to digital file: the dedications and notes on the flyleaf, the deckle edges, careful typesetting, artistic covers.

Here’s something else to add to the loss column: marginal doodles. Flavorwire has compiled a gallery of the idle squiggles of famous writers, offering an amusing and fascinating glimpse into the authors’ minds. For instance, Sylvia Plath depicted a nightmare of being chased by a hot dog and a marshmallow (this just cries out for Freudian interpretation), while David Foster Wallace added glasses and fangs to Cormac McCarthy’s author photo.

As Flavorwire’s Emily Temple notes:

[T]here is some evidence that active doodlers are also active thinkers and imaginers. […] Authors – especially those who wrote with pens instead of those soulless computer things – are prime doodlers. They have a million ideas going through their heads at once, so it makes sense that something would spill out as a little drawing on the side.

I’m struck, too, at which texts the authors chose to embellish. Many, like Samuel Beckett and Sylvia Plath, wrote on their own works: diaries, notebooks, notecards, their own title pages. But others used published books as their canvases. Nabokov doodled on (and edited) a copy of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. And DFW made his mark on McCarthy’s Sutree. Does this tell us something else about those writers? Is this paying homage to fellow authors, or a literary FTFY?

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