The Norton Unwieldy Doorstop of English Literature

Carrying around the Norton Anthology of English Literature was (and is) an honor thing. I would hoist the unwieldy tome from the zippered mouth of my backpack, and all those who witnessed (minus the English majors) would gasp, “What the hell is that? You carry that thing around!?”

“Yes,” I’d say. “Yes, I do. I proudly schlep with this unwieldy tome, not because, in a pinch, it makes for a great doorstop, but because I am an English Major, CHAMPION of Anglophonic verse and prose! I gladly offer myself to the task of loading down upon my shoulders the precious, inscribed intonations of Wollstonecraft, Wordsworth, and Heaney!”

Mind you, that was several years ago, and I was merely carrying around one of the two volumes that comprises the anthology (I started with the second volume, because I took Late English Lit prior to taking Early English Lit). At the end of the semester, I shelved that sucka. I admired its copious 2 ½ inch wide spine from my bed at night, and wistfully pined for the day I would take Early English Lit so that I could be assigned the corresponding volume, and eventually have it join its other half on the shelf.

Thus, imagine my heartbreak when, the next semester, the prof decided to take ergonomics into account and assigned instead a few smaller textbooks by a different publisher. ...actually, “heartbreak” might not be the right word – not because it would be ridiculous to get heartbroken over such a thing, but because I was prescribed some strange drugs that semester, and at that time feeling something as significantly negative as heartbreak may have been a chemical impossibility.

Nevertheless, it was a disappointment; a disappointment that carried over long after the questionable psychotropic medication was a part of my life. The incompleteness of that one lonely volume on the shelf, sans its partner, niggled at me, but the real twist of the knife came from seeing others’ copies of the Norton Unwieldy Doorstop Volume 1 sitting around the backroom of the English lab. I guess, after I took Early English Lit, future professors resorted back to the Norton.

Don’t think it didn’t cross my mind to just take one of the unattended copies.

But I work there.

And I already gabbed this sob story to enough people, it would probably be no mystery that I was the one who took it.

Now I’m taking an upper-division survey course that requires the latest edition of the Norton Unwieldy Doorstop Volume 1. I did what any American would do, and purchased it with an unthinking point-and-click. What arrived on my porch was not an unwieldy doorstop. It was not like the proud, almost-three-inch thick beauty that currently resides on my bookshelf. Instead it was the emasculated version, which took the first volume and butchered it into three parts. Because… Ergonomics. I don’t know.

I could pour over the what-ifs and should-haves about how if I were thinking I could have gone for an earlier edition, therefore acquiring a doorstop of my very own, but such meanderings of the mind are stopped in their tracks when I am delivered to the tragic, however inevitable, realization that perhaps my English major bravado would be more easily appeased by just keeping up with the reading.

But spine-measuring pettiness is not easily removed in one fell swoop. So, in the meantime, I’ll sneer over the shoulder of one of the tutors taking Early English Lit this semester who has been blessed to end up with the doorstop.

UPDATE (June 9, 2014):  Then someone amazing read this post and gave me one!

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