Apocalypse When

            I am not given to attending movies (one so far this century) but I have seen a lot of trailers.  One of the trailers for “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” inquires what you would do if you knew the world was coming to an end.

            Silly question, really.  I need more information.  Would that be before or after the end of July?

            “I’d have the perfect tagline for the Book Fair poster,” I told an innocent bystander.  “YOUR LAST CHANCE TO READ MOBY DICK!”

            The bystander, who wasn’t so innocent as I had supposed, stared at me for a moment and said, “Why not Uncle Tom’s Cabin?”  There’s one like her in every crowd.

            If you think it over, just about every category at the Book Fair has its books which are more read about than read.  Business has Wealth of Nations, History is replete with Spenglers and Toynbees and Wellses, and Classics has dear old Gibbon.  As for Romance, well, have all of you read Bridges of Madison County yet?

            I’d like to believe that the Book Fair at the End of the World would be more packed than ever.  The Religion section would go first, what with all those people picking up copies of their own religion’s major works—to look for loopholes—and maybe a few from other religions, in the name of hedging one’s bets.  But the Political Science section would probably be slow, save for a few people seizing that Last Chance to try to get through Das Kapital.  What do you feel about the diet books in Health?  Would people be trying to drop a few inches off their ends before the end?  Or would they be elbowing their way to the cookbooks, knowing this would be their very last chance to try tapioca meatloaf?

            Seeking a Book for the End of the World is serious business.  Would you spend your time finally reading that four volume life of John Marshall by Albert Beveridge, or Motley’s History of the Dutch Republic?  Or will you dash over to Humor to snatch up all of H. Allen Smith, Will Cuppy, and as many Charlie Browns as you can carry?  Would you pick up Finnegan’s Wake or something by Gertrude Stein, since just trying to understand these could take your mind off impending devastation?  Or go for that first edition of the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book, feeling those hash brownies would do the job just as well?

            In fact, would you buy more books, or fewer, if the End Time was on its way?  After all, you need pay no attention to your spouse demanding to know where you’re going to put them all.  But maybe you never did.

            As for us, we will maintain our standard, Armageddon or no.  We will smile as we tally and bag your books.  As always, we will look you straight in the eye and make no comment whatsoever at the number of sex manuals in your pile.  I’d like to think the checkers would count out your change properly, but I’d like to think you’ll be more likely to say, “No, keep it.”

            Now, as far as I know, the world is not coming to an end around Book Fair time.  (It can’t; we’ve got all those Quasquicentennial events planned for fall.)  But if it helps you spend money like there’s no tomorrow, I’ll be glad to pretend.  Especially if you promise to pick up a copy of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood on your way out of existence.  (I was going to suggest The Da Vinci Code, but you’re right: why take chances?)

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