On arrogance and ruination.

A few quick notes for people who write in library books:

  1. If you’re going to write in a library book, use a red pen for maximum impact.
  2. If you’re going to alter punctuation in a library book, use the correct proofreading symbols to do so.
  3. If you’re going to proofread a traditionally published, copy-edited, and previously proofread book be sure that you have an intimate understanding of grammar and punctuation. Be very sure that the changes you’re making are absolutely correct.
  4. DO NOT WRITE IN LIBRARY BOOKS, YOU FUCKING MONSTER. NEVER DO THAT.

It takes a certain kind of person to write in a library book. It takes another kind of person to alter punctuation throughout an entire library book — incorrectly alter punctuation, in every single instance. I gave up reading the book in question (excerpt pictured above) because the added commas were so glaringly incorrect that it made my skin crawl. I wanted to find the inarticulate comma monster who defaced this perfectly innocent murder mystery and slap them in the face with a glove and demand satisfaction.

Let me explain something. I understand arrogance very well because I am inflicted with that particular malady. Have you ever heard of a psychological condition called Imposter Syndrome? I definitely don’t have that. I sort of have the opposite of that. When I walk into a new room, I’m not secretly worried that I don’t belong there or that I’m a fraud. Very often I walk into a room and think: Oh, come on. I am so much better than these people.

Part of the problem (and at least I do see that there is a problem) is that, as a kid genius and a long time stage performer with a truckload of training, I have often been the best/smartest/most talented person in a room. Not every time, of course. But just often enough that the feeling was sometimes justified. I have been — many times — an arrogant little shit.

I refer to myself these days as a recovering asshole. (“Hi, my name is Sarah, and I’m an arrogant asshole.” / “Hi, Sarah!”) I’m not as awful as I once was, but I still have my arrogant moments.

And even I would never deface a library book with incorrect punctuation. Never. Even if the punctuation was truly incorrect and I was in the right.

Think about the sheer moxie that would take — the pure, unadulterated hot-shitness of it all. What makes a person pick up a ballpoint pen and say to themselves, “I took an English class once, and I can clearly see that this book is missing all of the important commas. I must correct this injustice if it’s the last thing I do! BY GOD AS MY WITNESS, THIS SHALL NOT STAND!” And then, tongue tucked in the corner of their mouth in concentration, said person, in deep concentration, proceeded to add and subtract commas at will. “There,” the person must have whispered triumphantly into the night, “now everyone will see the depth of my genius and understand that only I — and I alone — can command the comma perfectly. I do not need any trained proofreader or sly copy-editor to pollute my unblemished efforts. Bow before me, library readers, and see how I have bested them all!”

I expect they devolved into paroxysms of maniacal laughter at that point.

You see, the kind of arrogance exhibited by the person who defaced this book isn’t like my on-again-off-again overabundance of (occasionally unwarranted) self-confidence. This is the kind of arrogance that ruins things for everyone who comes after them. My arrogance tends to injure me socially — no one loves a braggart — but this kind of arrogance hurts other people. In this case, it hurt me — and I’m just arrogant enough in my own right to make an issue of it.

To make a long story short, do not deface library books. Especially if your punctuation “corrections” are wrong.

2 thoughts on “On arrogance and ruination.

  1. I’d never seen it before, either! I mean, I wouldn’t have been put out if they had only done it once, but they wrote all through the book, mostly adding extra (incorrect) commas. I notified the librarian when I took it back and it was taken out of circulation — thankfully.

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