The other day, while I was reading William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, I had an irresistible urge to write my name on the flyleaf. I hadn’t done that in years. At 12, I scribbled my name in Jane Eyre. I also wrote it in my Latin dictionary.
Then I broke the habit. Some years ago, I was irritated when a librarian wrote my name in a novel I’d lent her. It seemed impudent, because it wasn’t her book.
Perhaps I wrote my name in Vanity Fair because I was enjoying it less than I hoped. When I first read it at 17, I found Becky Sharp hilarious and Dobbins charming, but I was disappointed in the book. I was a Victorian novel nut, but I preferred Dickens’s pyrotechnics and Trollope’s plain style to Thackeray’s pointed wit and stylistic bibelots. In the introduction to the Penguin, John Carey compares Vanity Fair to War and Peace. I do not see the similarities.
I enjoyed Thackeray’s Barry Lyndon and The Newcomes. So why does the clever, nimble prose of Vanity Fair not delight me?
I wrote my name in the book, so now I have to like it.
Do you write your name in books?