Backstory: Great books reduced to a pinhead
This Moby Dick will be readable on an index card in 10 seconds.
Have you experienced the thrill of intellectual accomplishment, the deep and abiding sense of achievement that comes after reading one of the great classic books of Western civilization?
The problem with those great books is they are so-o-o-o-o lo-o-o-o-ong. Those guys had way too much time on their hands.
Take "Romeo and Juliet." What happens, really? Two Italian teenagers fall in love, but their families hate each other. Things don't work out, and they both end up dead.
I tried reading shorter classics, like "The Old Man and the Sea": An old guy goes fishing and hooks this humongous fish. It's hard to catch, but he catches it. On his way home some sharks eat it. They told me this Hemingway guy wrote short and to the point. Wrong!
I looked for versions of classics that wouldn't waste my time. I tried the Reader's Digest condensed Bible, but I got bored reading about the Nine Tribes of Israel and the Seven Commandments. I tried Cliffs Notes – still too long.
Then it came to me: I'll publish my own library – "Great Book Cards of the Western World." The cards are 3-by-5 inches – just the right size for pocket or purse.
Some forthcoming entries:
"Moby Dick" – A guy named Ahab is hunting a white whale when he falls in the water and the whale bites his leg off. He goes crazy and tries to find the whale and get even. He finds the whale but the whale sinks his ship and Ahab gets killed.
"The Grapes of Wrath" – During the Depression, the Joad family in Oklahoma loses their farm and falls on hard times. They pack up their stuff and drive to California, but things aren't so great there either.
I'll also do nonfiction: "The Prince" by Machiavelli – Look out for Number One. You can fool some of the people some of the time, and usually that's enough. Watch your back.
You can read each of my book cards in 10 seconds. Just the thing when you're in line at the supermarket or stopped at a red light. My first series of book cards will include 100 titles. Readers can buy them individually. If they buy all 100, I'll throw in a diminutive bookcase.
After I publish the first series of books, I might do a bigger project: a book-card edition of the encyclopedia.
You got a minute?
• Dale Roberts, a college career counselor, lives in Asheville, N.C.