A Lot of Special Modifications Myself

Consider this. The YT-1300 is not a spectacular ship. It’s a freight hauler, an intergalactic semi truck — and an outdated one at that. But what about Han Solo’s YT-1300, the Millennium Falcon, makes our hearts sing and pulses race with excitement?

Surely it’s what he tells Luke in the first minutes of A New Hope: “She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts. I’ve made a lot of special modifications myself.”

We love modifications. We love customization. The ubiquitous smartphone is personalized with skins outside and background images inside. And even the default choices for desktop backgrounds aren’t good enough; there are whole websites dedicated to gathering or even digitally creating backgrounds so we can express our individuality. We even alter functionality, using apps and add-ons based on our personal needs. Some tech geniuses even know how to make mechanical adjustments to their devices. And it’s not just our technology.

We customize our living spaces, applying paint and floor coverings to reflect our personalities. Pinterest is full of ideas on how to modify furniture, to turn old dressers into shelves, tables, chairs?! Do a search for “Ikea Hack” and find out how to add a personal touch to impersonal furniture. There’s no denying that human beings love to adjust things to fit.

Until, of course, you start talking about doing it to books.

Meet my Star Wars library. Like the Millennium Falcon, its appearance can be deceptive. You might think it doesn’t look like much, since I restrict my timeline to books set before the Hand of Thrawn Duology and refuse to buy or even read anything published after Disney’s purchase in 2012. But this library, like the Falcon, has it where it counts. I’ve made a lot of special modifications myself.

Before we explore those, though, I want to say a word about book modification. We take for granted the customization of our technological devices. Even body modification doesn’t earn a double take anymore. But if you announce that you write in your books, you’re stripped of your “book lover” status and thrown into the dark with those disturbed souls who use Readers Digest Condensed Books for craft projects or dog-ear pages instead of using a bookmark.

I took a quiz once about “What kind of reader are you?” and it said people who love their books read them while wearing gloves, never lend them out, never eat while reading–never do anything that would make them change from how they looked sitting on the shelf in the bookstore. Well, that’s a load of bantha poodoo. I love my books. I also write in my books. I eat while reading. And, by the way, gloves are tremendously bad for books! (Seriously. They’re dirtier than your hands and you’re far more likely to tear a page while wearing stupid gloves.) My books are my friends. Why should I ostracize them from my daily life just so they’ll “always look new”? A new-looking book is an unloved book, and that’s a fact.

Specifically about marginalia. I spent ten years as a Shakespearean researcher. Do you know that the untouched, pristine copies were the most useless? Sad books with uncut pages that nobody had ever read? I spent my research days poring over the editions full of marginalia, fingers pointing, angry ink dots, corrections, emendations, insults, exultations. Marginalia is how we anchor ourselves in eternity, hooking our thoughts onto a page that will last far longer than we will. I remember telling one of my nieces, “Always write your name in your books. That makes it special. That makes it yours.”

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And I’m in favor of writing far more than that. If it’s your book, I think you have a right to leave your thoughts on the page. So much the better if you can trade the book with a friend who’ll add theirs before giving it back!

Let’s get specific now. My Star Wars library has every type of modification. And I bet that you won’t even be able to tell a difference as we explore those modifications.

First, the obvious. I have made it my clear stance that I refuse to accept anything set after the Hand of Thrawn or anything published after Disney (except for Scoundrels, because Timothy Zahn earned that right). For me, all that stuff is heresy. It’s not the true Star Wars and I don’t want it in my house. Publishers, however, like to promote their wares wherever they can. Job one for my library was removing all those references: specifically, editing timelines that suggested post-VotF history and removing previews of books I consider offensive.

Next was the more complex job of editing the nonfiction works that posit post-VotF as history. The biggest example of this is The Essential Atlas, which I consider an essential resource, but its “Fate of the Jedi” content has always hindered me. This is the book that actually started me on this path. As you can see, though, the edits are almost entirely unobtrusive.

This kind of work is not difficult even if it is relatively tedious. When you understand how a book is put together, which I learned in Descriptive Bibliography (SLIS-S 684), it’s uncomplicated to excise without damaging or even leaving noticeable scarring. A good x-acto knife and rubber cement are essential. I use plain white glue to reinforce the binding where it’s been exposed. Be honest; you can’t even tell, can you?

In this way, I keep my collection healthy and whole. No compromise, one of my major tenets of love for Star Wars. But what of  the marginalia? You know, even the Star Wars books themselves promote marginalia, with the Handbooks series boasting handwritten notes by main characters.

My notes are chiefly cross-references–an occasion is mentioned in one book and I add a note for the page number and title of the book where the incident occurred. But the most entertaining notes, which I provide for your entertainment, are where I take the Original Trilogy novelizations to task for all their wrongheadedness. James Kahn, especially, writes an absurd adaptation full of unjustifiable nonsense. Thankfully it’s S-canon, but I still have a lot of fun writing saucy notes–and even more fun reading them later.

So there you have it! I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my modified library — and that you’ll be more accepting of modified libraries in the future. After all, if people can get a tattoo because it’s special to them, why can’t I reorganize a few pages in a fictional encyclopedia?

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3 Responses to “A Lot of Special Modifications Myself”

  1. Why don’t you accept anything after the Hand of Thrawn Duology if I may ask?

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    • Common question; unfortunately I’ve been meaning for years to write an essay on the subject so I can link to it conveniently and not repeat myself, because I know most people won’t be familiar with my reasoning.

      The short(ish) answer is that in 1999, the Hand duology was marketed as the end of the post-ROTJ timeline. Vision of the Future sends our heroes off into the sunset on a perfect, Lucas-esque note, and it was designed to do exactly that. The intention was for new Star Wars books to focus on the prequel era, which Episode I was opening up for us for the first time.

      However, Del Rey took over publication of Star Wars books from their sister publisher Bantam. I don’t know what happened, but for whatever reason, they decided to go back on the marketed promise that all future SW books would be set *before* Vision of the Future.

      That wasn’t good enough for me. I’d been promised an end. With that promise betrayed, I vowed in 1999 to accept their original promise to stop and never to accept anything set after that date.

      In the years since then, as I’ve learned bits and pieces about what takes place in those books, my list of reasons to reject them has only grown, but the original and biggest reason remains “because that’s when the story ends.”

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  2. Love this post! I write in some of my books as well and underline quotes that I love. My sister has always been anti-tabbing books which I find weird. I always tab pages that I want to return to and read again because it spoke to me.

    And I love your whole intro on modifications! It’s so true, really. I took 5 days two weeks ago to paint over the entire main floor of my ranch house and I feel so much better knowing it’s now “me”. My car has Star Wars decals over it proudly proclaiming my allegiance.

    Props to you on the Star Wars bookshelves though. They are impressive, most impressive.

    Liked by 1 person

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