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I Got Cussed At By A Library Book

August 20, 2015
From the cover, it looked like such a nice book.

From the cover, it looked like such a nice book.

A few weeks ago, I opened up a book I’d checked out from the library, Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, and written on the blank sheet before the title page was a giant:

F#ck You, @##hole!

I’m used to finding tiny surprises in library books.  Old library books are like newly-discovered crime scenes; you never know what you’re going to find inside.  I’ve found dried blood, brown stains, and tiny sticky things lodged between pages.  I’ve read notes written between the lines, and I’ve even seen curse words on margins.   But I’d never seen profanity take up an entire page before.

I laughed when I saw the profanity.  After all, I was pretty sure it wasn’t directed at me.  If somebody screamed “F#ck you, @##hole!” in my face or wrote it in a book that I owned, I might get mad.  But it wasn’t in my own book, and it wasn’t aimed at me, so I laughed at it.  Profanity is funny when it isn’t directed at you.

As far as profanity goes, “F#ck you, @##hole!” is pretty standard.  It’s straightforward, and it’s very easy to think of.  It’s the perfect go-to insult when your mind is flustered and you can’t think of the perfect retort, and you don’t have time to string precise words together.  If you’re the type of person who thinks of a great zinger three-hours too late, “F#ck you, @##hole!” is a godsend.

But “F#ck you, @##hole!” shouldn’t be written in a library book.  Whoever wrote it had time to think it over.  If you’re going to write an insult, take the time to think of something original.  These library books can stay in circulation for decades.  If I were going to write profanity in a library book (and I’m not the kind of person to do that), I’d think about it until I came up with something original.  By the time I thought of something worthy, though, I probably would have lost all desire to write profanity in a library book.  Maybe that’s why it was written.  Maybe the author didn’t have time to find the inspiration to be original.

Still, the placement of “F#ck You @##hole!” right before the title page makes it look like it was the book’s title.  F#ck You, @##hole would be a great title.  I’m usually against profanity in book titles.  I think it should be used sparingly.  Sh#t My Dad Said could have been Stuff My Dad SaidGo the F#ck to Sleep could have been Get Yourself To SleepTough Sh#t by Kevin Smith could have just been Tough!  If your book is any good, you shouldn’t need profanity in the title.

Even though I don’t approve of profanity in book titles, I’d buy a book called F#ck You, @##hole.  I’d at least read the first couple pages.  I’d proudly tell others that I’d just read it.

“I’m reading a great book,” I could proclaim.

“What is it?” my friends/co-workers would ask.

F#ck You @##hole!” I would say, looking my friends/co-workers in the eye.

That would be a great way to maintain friendships and working relationships.

I’m not sure I’m going to like Gravity’s Rainbow.  After the “F#ck You @##hole!” graffiti,  it has nowhere to go but down.


What do you think?  What’s the best/worst graffiti that you’ve ever seen?  What’s the worst thing you’ve ever found in a library book?  Should books have profanity in the titles?  Should I keep reading Gravity’s Rainbow?


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  1. Personally, I think he was writing it to the book itself after trying to read it. Pynchon’s a great writer in many ways but it’s a crazy hard book to understand.

  2. Best graffiti I have ever seen: A beautiful tapestry taking up the entire side of an abandoned warehouse.
    Worst graffiti I have ever seen: The words “I’m dope sick” written on a No Parking sign.
    Worst thing I have found in a library book: A sexually explicit (and unfortunate) Polaroid that, presumably, someone was using as a bookmark.
    Yes, profanity should be used in book titles.
    No, you should not continue to read Gravity’s Rainbow. Awesome title, but not a worthwhile read, in my opinion.
    –Morgan H.
    Pop Song History blog.

    • A sexually explicit (and unfortunate) Polaroid that, presumably, someone was using as a bookmark.”

      Ha ha! That’s not a bad idea for a business, explicit bookmarks (non-Polaroids, but I bet somebody else has already thought of it).

  3. Alex Hurst permalink

    I don’t know if I’ve seen enough profanity in my life to pick a favorite (sheltered, I guess!) but I am really curious who that note was directed at! The author? The previous owner before it became a library book? The librarian who called the borrower and demanded they finally return the thing? So many questions. 😉

    • We have a cranky librarian at our library, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it was directed at her. But @##holes are usually guys, and women are called a couple other things, so I’m not sure.

  4. Omg!! Seriously?! Dried blood! Profanity is pretty standard these days. So I guess you should keep reading Gravity’s rainbow 🙂

  5. I would make sure you mention it when returning the book, if you don’t you are going to get a call asking about either if a staff member sees it or when the next person borrowing it mentions it 🙂

  6. I remember purchasing a sci-fi book from a thrift store. I still have it in storage somewhere. Someone decided to write an interesting paragraph about an elf with a shotgun, that shot out some sort of dust..something to that extent.
    Growing up in the city of Los Angeles we all regularly found pictures or sketches of genitals and anything you could imagine in our used school books. There were fabricated never- ending names under who was checking the book out this time, from “Your Mom,” to “F*@# You.”
    I went through an interesting break up and my ex knew how I felt about reading and wrote, ” I hate you,” inside of the cover of one of my books, while on the other hand, I had another ex while in my freshman year of college write, “I love you,” in my Criminal Justice textbook. Woe is me…..story of my life…

  7. I presume the obscenity was written by a previous reader rather than put in by the author just to attract attention. Would any writer be that desperate for readership and more to the point would it work?

  8. “If you’re going to write an insult, take the time to think of something original. ”
    Actually, this is some stylistic point. Think of The Dude, who simply says “That’s like your opinion, man.” He doesn’t say that to Jesus because he isn’t witty enough, he proved plenty of times that he is. He says that because the receiving person isn’t worthy enough to think about something clever.

    The same thing goes for F#ck You, @##hole. Simple. striking, shows you don’t really care about thinking enough of the person you’re insulting to actually put the efford to get personal behind it.

    The worst thing i ever found in a library book was a daddy longlegs crushed between the pages and then a frame drawn with a ballpen around it.

    But the best/grossest thing that was found was something a librarian told me: A bread with liverwurst as a bookmark.
    People are weird.

  9. Sadly, I have to admit I used to write things in library books when I was a little kid. My favorite thing to do was create little games in the books for people to play. For instance, on page 12 I would write, in the margin: “Go to page 35” and if they did, they would find the words “Go to page 78” etc. etc. etc. Eventually they would get to a page that simply said “SUCKER!!!” I thought this was hilarious. (Ok, I still kind of do, but I don’t write in library books any more. Ever. 🙂

  10. I can’t tell you the worst thing I found in a book. Well, I didn’t find it, but I know it was there because the horrible boy who put it there told me. And it was a school book – a copy of Anne Frank’s Diary to be exact. I believe the book would have been unreadable after this boy had finished with it – at least a couple of pages, anyway.

  11. I think profanity is just fantastic when used in so many contexts. No one would have read “Get Yourself to Sleep” because it’s success was completely dependent on the word “fuck,” not the issue of a kid who won’t go to sleep. There are already lots of books that cover going to sleep.

    On a different note, I remember taking a class on James Joyce in college. When it came time to write papers, all the students were in the James Joyce journal section of the library, so I would frequently see classmates in the library. One guy–who was an English major planning on attending law school and who was always half drunk/hungover and just sweating booze–took a copy of one journal and was highlighting in it! My mind was BLOWN. I’m a justice-seeking person, but tattling, even in college, is still not cool.

  12. The first thing that came to my mind when I read that title was the screaming book in the Restricted Section at Hogwarts Library.

    I don’t recall finding anything terribly interesting in library or second hand books. Some receipts, once a squashed bug. Though I remember reading somewhere that library books are crawling with germs. Not enough to be a problem, but still, ew!

    • I’ve read about how old library books can carry lots of germs, so I wash my hands after reading old library books, I admit, but I don’t wear gloves… not yet.

  13. Laughed out loud at your idea about saying “that” by looking in the eye of your co- workers..I never found such things in a library.. But I’m awaiting for adventures..btw great post!!

  14. I started to write a reply to this post, and it became less of a comment and more of a novella, so I just put it up as a post on my blog. Let me start with this: I’m new to the WordPress world, and I found your blog under “suggested reading”. I read your entry carefully, and I do understand where you are coming from, for the most part. I do agree that the scribbled words would have made a great title to the book, and would amount to a great deal of personal enjoyment if you got to fulfill your imaginary dialogue with another person — it’s something that I would have loved to be able to say at my previous job, and having read a book by that title would have made it both possible to say, and easily brushed off as to not offend the person I got to say it to. Corporate politicking at it’s best :-). However, I do not agree with you entirely; specifically in regards to the titles that you listed above. Sometimes, the actual message of the profanity-laden title sums up everything inside perfectly, and in my opinion, those titles were perfect representations of what you would find inside.

  15. Hahaha. This was amazing.
    “I’m reading a book.” “What is it?” “F#ck You @##hole!”
    This sounds like something I would do. Haha

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