My dearest friend, who raises chickens in her tiny yard, is chronically late. Once I waited an hour for her in front of the Apple store. I thought perhaps she was at the other Apple store at the other mall. Finally she showed up, saying she had had a chicken emergency.
This time we were meeting at a restaurant. I was five minutes late. And I brought a book.
Have you tried to read Tolstoy’s The Cossacks at a busy restaurant? I read the first sentence, “Everything has grown quiet in Moscow.”
But there was too much bustle to read the second sentence: “At rare, rare intervals the squeak of wheels is heard somewhere along the winter street.” The servers hurried by with hamburgers, lobster, salads, scampi, and steaks. A man dropped his fork, and he and his wife argued about whether he needed a clean one. The woman with the cheeseburger jangled her bracelet at the server. “This is well-done, not medium. I cannot eat this.”
I wondered if I could have the cheeseburger.
A group of women sat down in the booth next to me. I cannot blame them for chattering. But I could not read while they gossiped about their hairdresser’s (alleged) affair with their obstetrician. It was like an episode from a canceled soap opera.
I decided to read the footnotes (actually endnotes) in The Cossacks.
Amalat-Beks…is the hero of the novella of the same name by the “Byronic” Russian author, literary critic, poet, military hero and revolutionary.
Who knew? Does one pronounce it AM-a-lot-bex or Am-AH-lot-bex?
The second note:
Circassian: Native of Cherkessia (see note 13, below).
I learned from note 13: the Circassians were a Muslim people.
Footnotes are fascinating even without the text.
If I had more time, I would write them myself.