Missing Pages

Missing Pages - Photo by Diane Varner

A couple of weekends ago we had a yard sale. My Mom hauled her stuff to our house to join in the fun. In clearing out some of her stuff, she came across a book called The Short Story and Its Writer edited by Ann Charters and published by St. Martin’s Press and asked if I’d be interested in it. I flipped through the table of contents: Joseph Conrad, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Jorge Luis Borges and on and on.

I took it because the thought of such a variety of short stories at my fingertips was exciting. I recently started writing short stories and want to read as many examples from the masters as I can to learn and for the sake of the reading itself.

The first thing I wanted to read was Sean O’Faolain’s piece How to Write a Short Story. It sounded like just what I needed. On the way to that piece I was waylaid by Borges. I had never read any of his stuff, but I’ve read that he is not to be missed. I started reading The End of the Duel. Crazy stuff. Things were moving along, I became more engaged in the story, and then, just before the climactic scene, the story ended. I was confused. It didn’t seem like the story should have ended. In fact, there was no punctuation.

The pages had been torn out.

I was going to page forward to find the other Borges story and the O’Faolain piece and wouldn’t you know, about forty pages total were missing, including those.

I couldn’t help but wonder if the pages had been taken by someone too lazy to lug around a giant anthology or if it was someone who couldn’t afford the book and needed those pages. Something tells me it’s more like the former because there are other chunks strategically missing, including a chunk of Heart of Darkness, Turgenev’s Byezhin Prairie, Kipling’s The Wish House and still others.

What an ass bite.

My hope is that whoever took the stories loved them so much that they couldn’t live without them. My fear is that those pages are in some land fill somewhere or were used to start a bonfire for homecoming.

Fortunately there are plenty of other stories in the book, so I guess I shouldn’t go complaining too loudly that the free book I got is incomplete.

This led me to wonder if anyone else ever experienced anything like this. Have you ever settled in to enjoy something only to find it was incomplete or other than expected?

Comments ( 11 )

  1. Replysarahwedgbrow
    I borrowed a book from my mother-in-law and an entire section of it was repeated. So, there were chapters 13-17 and after there were chapters 13-17, which then skipped to 20. yikes! a printed book! I asked my mother-in-law and she told me she hadn't noticed. Isn't that funny? How can you not notice the chapters repeating?!? It was an interesting part of the book as well where some questions were answered. Still, it was Nicholas Evans and I read it more for the landscape than the story.
    • ReplyJonathan Danz
      What does it say about a book when you don't notice two missing chapters? Yikes.
  2. Replybarbaraannwright
    I had an experience like Sarah's where a book club novel I bought had repeated pages. When I was in college, my copy of "50 Readings in Philosophy" was missing some crucial pages, and I didn't have the money to buy another. Thankfully, my prof took pity on me and photocopied the missing pages from his text, free of charge. I think he was just thankful one of his freshman was actually interested enough to speak to him.
    • ReplyJonathan Danz
      That was nice of your prof to hook you up. No doubt it the book was $40 and the bookstore was buying them back for around $1.50. Can't say I miss the weird economics of school bookstores.
  3. ReplyCassandra Jade
    I have a few books that were bought second hand that are either missing pages, or the pages are on the verge of falling out. One of my favourite books keeps dumping a pivotal scene on my lap everytime I go to read it. One day I'll get it repaired, otherwise someday someone is going to pick the book up to read and be sorely disappointed.
  4. ReplyRebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist
    You know? I don't think I have ever encountered torn out pages from a novel or story. Plenty of experience with the TIVO cutting off the end of TV shows though.. ;)
    • ReplyJonathan Danz
      I think the worst part is the surprise when you find out the stuff is missing after you've invested yourself in the work, whether it be books or TV or movies.
  5. Replys0beurself
    Funny, I just read a blog that praises the benefits of people 'personalizing' their books... http://fictionwritersreview.com/blog/when-we-go-digital-what-happens-to-the-flyleaf Didn't think I'd read the opposite side of this coin so quickly.
    • ReplyJonathan Danz
      That's just the world offering you a little equilibrium ;-) I can see the author's point in that post. Those things are kind of cool. I guess there's some fuzzy line in there somewhere between personalizing and ruining.
  6. ReplyCeleste
    Funny, I just wrote a post about *liking* used books--mine is the post references a few comments above (http://fictionwritersreview.com/blog/when-we-go-digital-what-happens-to-the-flyleaf) and the same commenter pointed me over here. You're absolutely right though--sometimes that "personalization" of books goes too far. I bought a used copy of The Catcher in the Rye once where someone had blacked out every (alleged) swear word. Maybe the distinction is between annotating--which adds something to the book--and removing, which just prevents a later reader from enjoying it? I'm reminded, too, of an essay by Anne Fadiman in her collection Ex Libris, in which she discusses the different ways people physically interact with their books: some mark up the page and dog-ear, while others leave the page pristine and shudder at the thought of leaving the book facedown on a table, for fear of crackig the spine.
    • ReplyJonathan Danz
      I sure don't mind margin notes and underlining and stuff like that (as long as I can still read the original work), but, please, don't feel the need to alter the book. To the person who crossed out all the "bad" words in Catcher in the Rye, if you can't stomach reading bad words, put the book down. Aren't you subjecting yourself to extra exposure by hunting them down and crossing them out. I don't mind worn books as long as they still function. My brother and I have a copy of George Martin's Storm of Swords that is held together with lots of packing and duct tape. :-)

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