Recently, I picked up a book. I flipped through the title page, examined the copyright page and the table of contents. At this point, everything was good. I was prepared to give the book a chance.
But the first sign of trouble came when I flipped to “Page 1.” I use quotes here because I can’t be sure of its numerical status. The publisher had left off the page numbering for both Page 1 and Page 2. And what’s more, they had dared to put “Part One” on this otherwise blank page. While this notice served as a valuable guide signifying the book’s beginning, it still failed to confirm whether or not the page I was trying to examine was the first page of the book. I flipped over the leaf and saw the beginning of the first chapter. Below it, I saw the number three. I flipped backwards, counting the pages, and, yes indeed, this must be Page 1. Why then the secrecy about it? Why the failure to note the number? I was disappointed in the book already.
Things were more or less smooth for a while. I flipped to Page 4 and found there to be a number at the bottom. I flipped to Page 5, Page 6, and the numbers followed me. In case the publisher decided upon any further trickery, I kept a yellow legal pad at my desk, keeping a tally of the pages.
At Page 14, however, there was disaster. The chapter ended at Page 13. And then, to my great shock, there was a blank page with no number, where Page 14 should have been. What a tremendous waste of space! I looked at my yellow legal pad and saw that, yes indeed, I was at Page 14.
To my great fortune, Page 15 was clearly marked: both as the beginning of Chapter 2 and as “15” at the bottom.
Things continued more or less along these lines for a hundred pages. Sometimes, the blank unmarked pages were there. Sometimes, they weren’t.
But things really took a turn for the worse when I was at the end of Part One. There were two blank unmarked pages after the text of Part One ended. And then there was another page marked “Part II.” Yes, believe it or not, this author had the temerity to switch from Arabic to Roman numerals midway through the book! Furthermore, the pages were again unnumbered until I got to the first chapter of “Part II.”
I threw my yellow legal pad against the wall and begin calling friends to understand why so many pages had been abandoned by their creators. Why were some pages numbered and some pages not? Who set the priorities around here?
I started flipping through more books and noticed that other publishers did this too. I know I’ve been told by some of my pals that I have a literal mind, but who mourns for the unnumbered pages? Who considers their feelings? Who considers the waste of space? A page may be blank, but is it possible that the blankness might convey some message? If so, why not number the blank pages too?
In conclusion, I have to say I didn’t care for this book and that War and Peace and Les Miserables were better than this book. I think the main reason why those books are classics is because their authors have taken the time and care to number each page. Which is more than I can say for this book or other books. But perhaps I object to this white space because it reminds me of the quiet room that Dr. Yasir and his staff locked me into yesterday.
© 2006, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.