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Illegal Inscriber: We Are Brothers

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Warning: NSFL Image (Not Safe for Librarians)

BookNote-04162013Sometimes Ramsey County goes far afield to procure my desired book through their interlibrary loan system. Not so long ago a book about Levinas written by Sean Hand made its way to me all the way from Janesville, Wisconsin. I had not thought of that working community as a hot spot for continental philosophy, but life is full of surprises.

This copy of Levinas’ Totality and Infinity came from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. And somebody there did his thinking on paper. I say “his” because this scrawling looks like it was made with a masculine hand. I would like to buy this thinker a cup of coffee—his processing of the text is spectacular. He outlined sections of Levinas’ thought, he responded with gusto (exclamation points and double/triple underlines) to the sometimes obscure Levinasian sentences. His notations in the margins show him connecting Levinas to Hegel, Nietzsche, Sartre and Descartes. He is surprised when he finds “another way!” He offers a sad face upon realizing “the state is a totality.”

In fact the first 1/3 of the book is full of his incidental reactions and understandings, all scrawled in remarkably clear pencil in the margins. By half way through the book his interest seems to wane. The latter half of the book is free from all pencil inscriptions. Did he fall asleep in the library and miss his deadline? Did he finish his paper based “the same and the other” without ever getting to “exteriority and the face?”

I suspect so.

Even so, I’d like to have a chat with this illegal scribbler. This person has a lively mind, reaching out to make mental connections even as he reached out with graphite to record those firing synapses. Maybe this guy was even considering the poor dolt (this next other) who would pick up the text next—showing a kind of mercy on him.

I think the Ramsey County Librarian would also like to meet this scribbler. She wrote (for the tiny but loopy handwriting on the transfer label looks like a feminine hand to me) —wryly, to my mind: “pencil marks noted.”

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Written by kirkistan

April 16, 2013 at 8:21 am

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