Friday, July 1, 2011

Nixon in the margins

A reader of this copy of the book, Nixon in the White House, by Rowland Evans, Jr. and Robert D. Novak (Random House, 1971), sees Watergate as having been inevitable, but that wasn't Nixon's biggest crime.

Between these covers, it's pretty obvious that one reader of this book felt very passionate about the subject and interacted rather intimately with the text, letting his emotions and feelings flow in annotated anger across many a page.

The reader's liberal use of a pencil to annotate this book--rather, what his annotations speak to--tells me the marginalia occurred after the scandal. That and the date of the book. Watergate hadn't hit the headlines yet.

The reader doesn't take long to crank up the marginalia. A page 7 reference to Donald Rumsfeld gets the pencil scratching across the paper with Rumsfeld's name underlined (reference to a phone call he shouldn't have received from Nixon) and the margin note "Security Risk!" But that's not the first notation you see. A summary of the book and the reader's opinion welcome you on the half-title page:

After reading this book, Watergate seemed inevitable. But Watergate is only the tip of the iceberg visible above the surface.

Treason is defined as giving aid to the enemy of a country. Communist Red China was our enemy in the Korean War. A deadly enemy still in the Vietnam War. Mr. Nixon put them on "The Most Favored Nations" list.

And this annotation is but the tip of the iceberg for the marginalia that occurs throughout this book. Marginalia and underlining.

Below are a few examples out of many that exist from this impassioned reader.

Somehow, during this reader's Nixonian annotation rants, Mr. Walter Knott of Knott's Berry Farm fame winds up in the marginalia. An interesting connection for later research, perhaps.

And if you're wondering how this reader held up over the long haul of reading this book, I assure you he was still going strong the last several of 410 pages. On pages 403 through 405, no less than three passages are once more marked with the word, "Treason," all pertaining to Nixon's relations with Communist China.

Further, the marginalia sometimes has a source other than a knee-jerk reaction from the reader; the annotation at times contains a citation for the source, (i.e., Wall Street Journal, Aug 1 1973). I'd venture a guess that this is an unusual practice in the art, if you will, of annotation and marginalia.


There you have just a taste of one reader's reaction to a period in US history that created such intense feelings as to cause a reader to relive it as it unfolded in this book, accuse President Nixon of treason, and write marginalia with a vision that only comes with hindsight.