[Note: this is a satire I wrote a year or two ago in the style of The Onion based on observing used books and textbooks at the beginning of the semester at our university bookstore. They have a unique story to tell!]
UNIVERSITY TEXTBOOK HAS BEEN THERE, DONE THAT Richmond, KY–University of Eastern Kentucky sophmore, Justin Evans, spent the better part of the afternoon tracing the tortured, eclectic history of his textbook, Traditions & Encounters: A Brief Global History, Volume II, 3rd ed. The book, purchased used for $75 from the campus bookstore, had multiple “used” stickers over its spine, and upon opening the cover, Evans found additional stickers from the following universities: University of Georgia, University of Northern Iowa, Slippery Rock University, and Yuba College.
“I didn’t even know where Yuba College was–I had to Google it,” Evan said, excitement registering in his voice. “Turns out its a community college system just north of Sacramento. So how the hell did it get to Eastern Kentucky?! Damn.”
Geography aside, the textbook, which is heavily worn, testifies to years of highlighting, underlining, dog-earring, and marginalia.
“I can’t even read the damn textbook for all the highlighting–the entire book is highlighted!” Evans exclaimed. “And 2/3 of that is underlined, with half of that starred and some of it even circled! I guess I’ll have to devise some new system of emphasizing the important passages. Crayons? Squiggles?”
However, a completely different story is revealed by following the marginalia and drawings that embellish the textbook like a Baroque cathedral. Evans has discovered everything from Led Zepplin logos to stylized ”fucks” to cryptic phone numbers in mysterious area codes. Additionally, page 251 has a two person exchange that reads as follows: “What did he say?” “Nothing.” “That little shit!” “I know, I–” Other pages sport coffee rings, pizza stains, a dead fly, and something that Evans describes as “greenish-brown clear fluid…I have no freaking idea what the hell it could be, but it still smells. I washed my hand for two minutes after touching it.”
Even more interesting is the amount of common objects that have been pressed into service as bookmarks. Evans discovered two Juicy Fruit wrappers, a page ripped out from a phone book, a business card (a plumber, in Cedar Falls, Iowa), and his personal favorite, a Lifestyles condom wrapper. “I can almost imagine these two students together to study, and coming to a picture of one of those nude Renaissance ladies,” Evans said, with a chuckle. “And after awhile they started looking at each other with the thought that studying could be a lot more interactive, if you know what I mean.”
Several pages are missing from the back of the book, and in a late discovery, Evans stumbled across a piece of notebook paper folded up twelve times. Unfolding it, he found directions to someone’s house, with a cartoonish map across the left hand of the page, and directions–”really shitty ones”–on the right. Evans wonders if the directions actually led the person to the right house, and if so, who was there waiting for them? Were the directions saved for a future assignation, or out of impotent frustration for not being able to find the address? And why wasn’t the address written down? Did whoever wrote the directions not want them to find it? “Man, that’s cold,” Evans nods. “But that shit happens all the time. Especially in this whack-job town.”
“The damn kicker of it all is that I got the wrong edition,” Evans sighs. “The syllabus asks for the fourth edition, but like a lame-o I had to pick up the one third edition in the bookstore. But damn…there’s no way I’m taking this back. It’s like a historical record of all those students who time forgot–who got B’s or C’s and graduated and probably never used their history knowledge again. But I’m going to remember them–their legacy deserves to be remembered! Otherwise, what the hell do we go to college for?”
The textbook is currently listed at Amazon.com for $58.71, with 34 used copies available starting at $45.45.