The Life Of A Text In Its Footnotes

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Cusack was of middle height but had extremely broad shoulders. He usually wore a broad-rimmed soft hat and instead of trousers wore knee breeches. Carrying a heavy blackthorn, he would come into a pub and shout at the waiter, ‘I’m Citizen Cusack from the Parish of Carron in the Barony of Burren in the County of Clare, you Protestant dog!’

This comes from a footnote in the great paean to literature I’m reading now, a text which functions like a magical barcode; as my eyes scan it, my mind fills with a whirl of crashing ideas…

I’m partial to ‘characters’ walking around and shouting their lengthy names at random people. Several of the best moments in The Hobbit occur when Thorin shouts, comma-less, “I am Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror King under the Mountain!” I should do the same wherever I go. “I am Ian son of Frank son of David Writer of Great Books!”


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