"Wherever and whatever I read, I have to have a pencil, not a pen—preferably a stub of a pencil so I can get close to the words, underline well-turned sentences, brilliant or stupid ideas, interesting words and bits of information, and write short or elaborate comments in the margins, put question marks, check marks and other private notations next to paragraphs that only I—and sometimes not even I—can later decipher. I would love to see an anthology of comments and underlined passages by readers of history books in public libraries, who despite the strict prohibition of such activity could not help themselves and had to register their complaints about the author of the book or the direction in which humanity has been heading for the last few thousand years.
Witold Gombrowicz says somewhere in his diaries that we write not in the name of some higher purpose, but to assert our very existence. This is true not only of poets and novelists, I think, but also of anyone who feels moved to deface pristine pages of books. With that in mind, for someone like me, the attraction some people have for the Kindle and other electronic reading devices is unfathomable. I prefer my Plato dog-eared, my Philip Roth with coffee stains, and can’t wait to get my hands on that new volume of poetry by Sharon Olds I saw in a bookstore window late last night" -- Charles Simic NYR blog