Sunday, July 20, 2008

the poop of silas lapham

Bunna reads a lot. So does Biff for that matter, but Bunna's current vocational undertaking obliges him to turn more pages than most typical thirty-somethings. Because his scant occupational remuneration doesn't support his bibliophilic dream of shelves chockablock with crisp new copies, Bunna is accustomed to thumbing through cast-off second hand editions and library copies of the best (and worst) nineteenth-century Americans have to offer. Anyone who regularly peruses previously read volumes has certainly encountered the text with insightful underlinings or other annotations that indicate the book was in capable hands. But the reader of used books, especially one who purchases them "site unseen," as it were, from one of the many online outfits, also takes the risk of slogging through a text congested with the inane marginalia of a half-wit. While leafing through William Dean Howells's The Rise of Silas Lapham, one of the late nineteenth-century's classic realist novels, Bunna was content following in the footsteps of what seemed to be one of those capable readers. The markings bespoke someone familiar with intellectual and literary movements, someone who was to his utter dismay, however, familiar with a different kind of movement all together. During a key scene in the novel, this pencil wielding egghead wrote a very cryptic and disturbing (or disturbingly amusing) comment. 

In what was an otherwise flawlessly scrupulous job of annotating, came this little jewel in the margin: "pooing." Perhaps because Lapham "leaned back in his chair," or maybe because the narrator described him as "stiffly resolute," or perchance because "incommoded" is cognate with commode (a piece of furniture concealing a chamber pot), this scholar chose to write "pooing." Now, lest you accuse Bunna of forging this comment based on his scatological leanings, you should know that he much prefers "pooping" to "pooing" and has long adopted the former as his chosen term when conversing in that field. "Pooing," of course, has nothing to do with the passage and its presence on the page has long vexed Bunna. Because the other markings to this point had been spot on in his mind, Bunna had to reevaluate his reading and was forced to disassociate himself from the puerile prankster. 

Next time the urge to write in a library book (or any book for that matter) takes hold, Bunna advocates caution--others will follow! 


Jackie said...

Neal is partial to 'pooh' and I am like Bunna, it is 'poop'. Either way you say it, it sure is a funny thing to stumble upon! So did you add a comment to that on the book? Or a link to your post? :)

Seymour Glass said...

you do indeed prefer the poop to the poo. have you considered that this bit of marginalia may not be a commentary on the text itself, but rather on the reader's actions while reading the text? consider that used book red-flagged.