Reading Footnotes in Public, or “The Cossacks” and I

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.

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