A long, long time ago [possibly sixty-five years ago, when I was a regular reader of two pocket-sized pulp science fiction magazines, Astounding Science Fiction and Galaxy Science Fiction], I read a curious short story about a restaurant that served delicious but totally imaginary dishes to its patrons. Since there was a significant danger that the customers might, upon leaving the restaurant, discover that they were still hungry, the proprietor had the waiters bring extremely tempting and quite real rolls and butter to the tables before the dishes ordered by the patrons were served. The patrons would load up on the rolls, which were fortified with a variety of dietary supplements, and would never notice that the rest of their meal was an illusion. [I cannot for the life of me recall the point of the story, or its denouement.]
I was reminded of the story yesterday evening as I launched into a seven hundred page Tom Clancy thriller called Against All Enemies that I had brought home from the library. Tom Clancy novels are to reading what empty calories are to eating: they produce the momentary impression that one has consumed a book, but turn out to have no intellectual or emotional nutriment whatsoever [nor any redeeming social value, but that is a matter for the Supreme Court to decide.] After I had made my way 60 pages into the book, it dawned on me that I had already read it! Now, I ask you, how is it possible, short of a dementia that I do not believe has yet afflicted me, to forget that one has read a seven hundred page book? A book, what is more, that was published only last year. I mean, could you just forget that you had read Crime and Punishment or Moby Dick?
When I checked the book out, the librarian, obviously concerned about an old guy taking out such a long book, warned me that the blue tape on the spine meant no renewals and no late returns. I suspect I will get an odd look when I bring it back today.
That leaves me with Turing's Castle, to which I shall return.