Wednesday, November 16, 2005

On Chapbooks

This isn't brand new, I posted it to the Lucifer Poetics list a few months ago, when an argument about chapbooks vs. "real" books broke out. I just came across while combing through old files and decided to immotalize it here.


It is widely known but seldom acknowledged that some books come into this world withered and retarded. In more sensible times, these mongoloid tomes were cinched in scratchy sacks, tken far from the city gates, and left to die of exposure atop hills. Unfortunately, in this retiring era we must suffer these mongrels among us, heap extravagant praise upon their authors, and treat them as "equals," even as they dilute the wide readership and make hardier books seem absurd by caricature. One is consoled only by the fact that instead of dying of exposure upon hilltops, they now die of underexposure in cities.


Q: Why is a real book more courageous than a chapbook?
A: Because a chapbook is spineless.


If you suspect your book might be a chapbook, the following steps are advisable. Find the nearest body of water (a basin will do in a pinch). Submerge the suspect literature in the water. If it soaks, sinks, and dissolves, it is a chapbook and you have done the right thing. If it floats on the surface and does not dampen, it is a book. In such a case, you should immediately retrieve it with a net, or, if this is unavailable, a long reed. Read it from cover to cover, and rush it to the nearest library. If water is absolutely unavailable, use fire.


On the third day the prophet told this parable:

In a certain kingdom of the world lived a wise man known for shrewdness. Two bibliophiles came to him with a dispute over the ownership of a fifty page book. The wise man decreed that the book would be cloven into equal portions, each party taking half. Fine, said the first bibliophile, cut the book. No! cried the other, I would rather he have it than see it cloven into two chapbooks.


Urgent: Reports are filtering in of chapbooks posing as real books. They can be identified by the extravagance of their blurbs and surplus of pages containing words but no content. These may look like real books, feel like real books, even smell like real books. Do not be fooled – you can put your hand right through them.


Fun Fact: In some lightless, dung-smeared regions of the world, chapbooks are actually considered a delicacy!


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