There’s a scene in a movie that I love a lot, Lawrence Kasdan’s 1983 film The Big Chill, that I thought of today for the first time in years.
Michael, a People Magazine writer played by Jeff Goldblum, is talking with his friends about his job:
Michael: Where I work, we only have one editorial rule: you can’t write anything longer than the average person can read during the average crap. I’m tired of having all of my work read in the can.
Harold: People read Tolstoy in the can.
Michael: Yes, but they can’t finish it
I thought of this scene as soon as I read the news today that a rare first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, one of only 1,250 copies printed in 1859, had been found on a shelf in the guest bathroom in a house in Oxford, England.
So, if you, like me, consider a book like this to be comparable in weight and substance to Tolstoy, either the People Magazine editorial board was wrong, Harold was right, or folks in Oxford spend a LOT of time on the toilet.
Meanwhile, how do you suppose Charles Darwin would take this news?
Would the fact that the book is predicted to sell for close to $100,000 at an auction on the 150th anniversary of its publication make him feel any better?