Today’s post is brought to you by the letter
C is for Conversation.
Conversations I have with people remind me of books that I have in my to-be-read pile(s). Sometimes conversations mean I pull a book out and read it much sooner than I might have. Conversations don’t have to be about a particular book or even an author. Sometimes random discussions remind me of a book I’ve got. Or the discussion leads me to look for a book on a topic. Or it reminds me of a book I’ve heard about.
Here is an example from this week. One day at work, my colleague the Libertarian and I were discussing the superiority of footnotes over endnotes in publications. We both prefer footnotes in our reading as endnotes require flipping back and forth to look at references or asides. If these were at the bottom of the page, one could glance down and see if a note only referred one to a source, or whether the writer had more to say about a topic but thought it best to put the extra in a note for some reason. One could then decide to read the note or not without hustling off to the end of the book, finding the right note in the midst of many, then forgetting what the original note marker flagged in the main text, flipping back… you get the picture. Endnotes are a pain. The Libertarian asked me if I’d read Gertrude Himmelfarb’s essay on footnotes. I haven’t and am interested to know that Himmelfarb wrote such an essay. This reminded me of the Himmelfarb book currently in the to-be-read pile on my coffee table, The New History and the Old: Critical Essays and Reappraisals. This essay collection has footnotes, but does not appear to have the essay on footnotes.
Aha! you may say. The Libertarian mentioned an author to you, of course that conversation reminded you of a book with the same author. That’s not so odd. Ok, maybe not. But today I was thinking about the conversation about footnotes. As I thought about footnotes, I remembered with some pleasure a fantasy book in which the narrator resorts to footnotes to comment upon the action. Loved the footnotes in that series. Amazing. The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud are the novels with footnotes. Bartimaeus is the narrator who pompously resorts to footnotes to comment on the ill-advised moves of some persons in the story he tells. The books in the trilogy are The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem’s Eye, and Ptolmey’s Gate. These books contain an alternate history and are fantasy books usually shelved in the YA or teen section of bookshops. Adults also enjoy the books.
Will I read Himmelfarb’s essays or re-read Bartimaeus because of a conversation at work? Possibly. It is much more likely that I’ll read Himmelfarb in the next month that it was before the conversation. And now that I’ve been reminded of Bartimaeus, and reminded of the fact that I only own two of the trilogy, I’ll probably look harder for the third. And may return to them sooner. You never know what ideas for books to read a conversation might put into your head.