Meanwhile I pick up a book I’d brought, thought I’d read for a while. Get my mind off things – and onto other things. The book was a classic, a title most, many, okay some would recognize, one of those books that have, as they say, withstood the test of time, its reputation having been forged, etcetera. I glanced at five pages of acknowledgments and worked my way through the introduction, capital I, a twenty-page essay by an expert in the field, someone who evidently could shed light upon this most lofty of works. There followed a fifteen-page preface, capital P. I leafed through the Preface. Following the Preface was a Chronology, a Biography of the author, one that was also written by an expert – a different expert – in the field. At this point my thumb was nearing the halfway point of the book. On a whim I made a brief reconnaissance to the end. Yes indeed, the book had an Afterword. An Index. A map, for god’s sake. Several maps, maps of the various locales alluded to in the book. These were helpfully maps from the time period in which the novel’s action took place. A Translator’s Note. Can something that goes on for eight pages rightfully be called a note? A note on the type explaining the font, the history of the font, a definition of the word “font.” Other words in which various forms of the word “font” could be found (was found one of them?). Brief “Abouts” about the people who had written the Introduction and Preface. At this point I began searching the middle of the book for any traces of the actual work itself.
Ah, there it is! You didn’t suspect society had fallen that far, did you? Sure enough there was the work, all 150 pages of it. None had been deleted, censored (that I knew of), or otherwise bowdlerized, spun, or fucked with.
And as I began reading this classic text, I was surprised to find humor. Though there was humor in this text to make me laugh, I did not laugh. Who might I be to laugh at the words of this classic text to which so many men had given their scholarly lives, played the field, and managed to get their own reputations staked to the work of another?
I chuckled here and there, but didn’t experience the belly laughs that had stricken, as the Introduction had led me to believe, its initial readers, though I assume that little had been lost on its journey through the decades. Yes, quite the comedian, this clever little classic. Soon I set the book aside. Eventually it will make its way back onto my bookshelf, there to remain until I’m ready to take another stab at Serious Literature.