“Sylvia Plath once said, “thou shalt go fuck yourself,” and the people of the world stood still and bowed their heads.” – The Internet
I. AN INTRODUCTION
Miriam Webster’s defines a commonplace book as a book of memorabilia. Google, the humble servant, defines the commonplace book as 1. “a book into which notable extracts from other works are copied for personal use ” and 2. cool as fuck.
So maybe Google didn’t define a commonplace book as “cool as fuck.” But Google, and the people who write the algorithms that ensure proper definitions are accessible through Google, should really reconsider what constitutes a definition. Commonplace books are cool as fuck and have been kept since humans learned to write. Across the ages, men and women have collected the thoughts and feelings of others for personal gain. A few months after having read and digested the main body of work, the commonplace book keeper would thumb through their notes for the perfect snippet of pilfered writing. These stolen inner monologues can be used to advance personal essays, inspire written work, and accentuate speeches. Look at Montaigne who said shit like, “I am myself the matter of my book.” When looking through his (and Shakespeare’s, Goethe’s, Milton’s, Da Vinci’s,) notes scholars found that often enlightenment came within their marginalia. Genius often comes on the backs of others. It’s our job, as human beings, to recognize that and build from it.
A 12 year old girl’s tumblr stacked to the brim with collected quotes. . . you’re looking at a modern, non-traditional commonplace book.
Two years ago I started compiling quotes from news articles (X, X) that I found interesting and relevant. I didn’t know what this practice was called until I read an article on Thought Catalog called, “How and Why to Keep a Commonplace Book” by Ryan Holiday. How I went so long (twenty years of my life, wasted) without knowing about this practice–I don’t know.
The tradition of using quotes and colloquialisms of others when writing essays serves many purposes. Primarily, when implemented, these quotes make the implementer look knowledgeable. It builds that fabled credibility we all desire. It is the written equivalent of having wing-women and men. What could be said by you sounds so much better when said by someone else. Ya feel?
AND SO, luckily for you, there will now be a section on this (humble) website that compiles some of my favorite quotes and passages from books I’m currently reading or have read, as well as a few small essays on the benefits and practices of consuming literature. Kind of like a how-to guide, except, you know, without the guide or the how-to.