If I am ever starting my own company, I will publish colour coded books. I will issue a copy of Wuthering Heights in which Cathy and Cathy jr. each have their own colour so it is easy to keep them apart. – In the book, Catherine is the mother, but Heathcliff calls her Cathy. Cathy is the daughter, but Heathcliff calls her Catherine. And then there is Edgar Linton, Catherine’s husband and Linton Heathcliff, Heathcliff’s son by Isabella. – Need I go on?
I was thinking about this as I was studying Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds for my next paper, slowly breaking down the story into coherent levels of storytelling. A student writes a story about a man named Trellis, who is himself an author, but whose characters start a revolt against him. The characters have also starred in a book by Trellis’ colleague Tracy, and describe their experiences. On top of this, the student draws some heroes of old Irish folk tales into the story, who interact with Trellis’ characters and tell other folk tales. So far I’ve used seven different colour pencils to mark this up. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if every copy of this book came with a clear index that helped you keep people and their story lines apart?
My edition of One Hundred Years of Solitude (a book I love love love) would not be a jumble of characters named José Arcadio (x2), Aureliano (x2), Aureliano José and Arcadio, but a neatly ordered story in which each person has their own colour. I, personally, remember things better when they are colour coded anyway.
Then again, would this be as nice as it sounds? Granted, the stories are easier to understand and it would have saved me quite some time preparing my seminars, but where is the fun in that? Investing in a story makes it twice more enjoyable. I liked puzzling with the family tree in One Hundred Years of Solitude, and when I learned how to tell the two Cathy’s in Wuthering Heights apart I felt really proud.
Well, that’s another one of my brilliant business plans shot down, then. It doesn’t matter. I’m happily defacing my copy of At Swim-Two-Birds and learning more about it than any annotated copy could have taught me.
Good luck with your upcoming exams, everyone! How are you preparing for them?