Garfield McKinley Lincoln was in the binding room by the glue machine, watching the latest copies of the Norton Anthology of Not-Quite-White Authors receive their daubings of permaglue.

He was concerned. The permaglue being used in this operation was not the usual epoxy-800, but a derivative called bindo-mat-350, and it seemed to him that it was too thin and waxy to be of much use. He figured that the pages would fall out of the books about thirteen weeks after they were put into use.

He went to the main office to see Mr. Woodrow Wilson Norton, the president of the company, called simply "God" by most folks.

Lincoln: But this glue, sir, in our latest edition of the Not-Quite-White Authors will not last.

W.W.: That's all right, Lincoln. Not to worry. Neither will the writing. People will only read it once; anyway it's not, after all, real literature. No need to waste perfectly good epoxy-800 on an inferior product.

Suddenly, at that precise moment, Ponderosus Exclamentus, the God of Anthologies, descended upon the office. In one hand he held a flaming sword, in the other a book of Really Great Poetry By Dead White People (known as RGP-DWP in the litcrit biz).

Pond. Excl.: We have a problem, Norton. You have desecrated the Holy Book Series.

He points his sword at the face of Norton. Lincoln slinks into a corner.

Norton: But--what do you mean?

Pond. Excl.: You have included living authors in this last series, many of them non-white, and certainly of little enduring value.

Norton: But there was pressure, you wouldn't believe, from all of these people, to include soemthing like this . . . besides, it's done on tissue paper with shitty glue and we're charging an arm and a leg for it. Anyway, what harm? These writers are now safely anthologized. They can't feel a thing. Not at all dangerous.

Pond. Excl.: Somebody may take them seriously. You know, I have empowered you to produce what amounts to Holy Writ--serious things only to be associated with the name "Norton," as in "God," "Truth," "Eternity." Now this abomination! Most unserious!

Norton: But they write seriously. We selected only serious almost-white-male authors writing about serious topics, topics of enduring human value. No mysteries, sci-fi, or porn in here.

Pond. Excl.: Whaddya mean, serious? Some of these people I wouldn't even read once, let alone over and over, clutching them to my bosom, inscribing them upon my gates and doorposts, binding them to my arms and head, speaking of them when I arise and when I lie down, teaching them unto my children, etc. Many of these authors don't even have penises or other substantial heuristics! Many of them can't even spell! And the topics they treat! Homosexual longing, personal and cultural identity . . . why, one of them even wrote about beings from another planet and one about rock and roll heaven . . . now please, Mr. Norton, how can you condone this?

Norton: But they're anthologized now. Safe. We even glossed them; we put explanatory notes all over, and intrcductory material, and all that . . . besides, if we don't publish a volume like this, Riverside will. We can't very well have people thinking that Riverside keeps up with the times and we don't, can we?

Pond. Excl.: Riverside has been tithing more regularly than you, you know . . .

* * * * *

Earlier this week, a fresh cargo of sophomore literature anthologies was launched into space via the Anthology Shuttle Plan. Some three million tons of Nortons (the most toxic of the materials covered) were safely hurled into the outer reaches of the solar system, where scientists working on the problem hope they will be rendered inert until a way of permanently detoxifying them is found . . .

Meanwhile on Earth, President Gore has declared the United States an "Anthology-Free Zone," promising concerned citizens that no more anthology dump sites would be licensed in this country. Concerned citizens' groups had earlier picketed and petitioned Congress in hopes of having the existing sites cleaned up under the provisions of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) superfund.

The spokesperson for one citizens' group, Mr. Sinclair Upton, insisted that "something will have to be done soon with these dumpsites. In our town, Cambridge, for example, the abandoned "Harvard" site has been leaking toxic verbiage for years since it was plowed under. Children have been born with traditional metaphysics, epistemologies, and cosmologies, as well as with serious physical defects such as no bodies, in our area. We link this to the seepage of Literature into our groundwater supplies. And we're very angry."

It is only in the last ten years that former "Harvard" officials have admitted to dumping thousands of unsealed containers of toxic anthologies during the tenure of the "University." The exact extent of the dumping may never be known. Sample cores taken from this site have produced levels of Literature ranging from 1.88 to 5.78 parts per million (ppm). The maximum exposure to LWEVs allowed for workers in the Literary Waste Removal Bureau is regulated by the government at 0.3 ppm/annum. The NEH has not yet declared the "Harvard" site as an "Emergency Default Zone," the term used by the government to designate extremely hazardous areas which are eligible for "superfund" cleanup dollars. Four hundred such sites have currently been thus designated nationwide.

Eight hundred thousand more such sites, mostly at abandoned "libraries" and "schools," may exist in this country, acoording to humanities/environmental officials. The figure worldwide may be seven times that high, this mainly due to U.S. "dumping" of anthologies in decades past in third-world countries.

"This is a problem that will be with us for some time. Ultimately, it is the unborn generation that will pay for the foolishness of their parents," one EPA official was quoted as saying.

* * * * *

A bead of sweat trickled down the doctor's forehead. Above the black mask his feverish eyes could be seen probing into the soft body in front of him.

"Where's the anthologist?!" he suddenly demanded.

"Here, sir!" shouted a thin figure at the head of the table.

"Dammit, turn up the gas or something! This author's work isn't completely under. When I ask you to anthologize an author's work, I don't want it wiggling when I make my first incision."

The anthologist mumbled something softly, but the doctor heard. "What was that, you pup? Mumbling?" snarled the doctor.

"Yes, goddammit," said the anthologist (who was actually just a nurse-anthologist, not a Ph.D.), "I did say something."

"Well, speak up then, and enlighten the rest of us," said the doctor, dropping his instruments into the tray.

OK, you asked for it, thought the anthologist. "This charade needs to stop, doctor. For years we've been coming in here every day, pretending to save lives, to operate and make interesting surgical discoveries. We've even published our findings in journals for other doctors. But shit, people, our 'patient' has been dead for four hundred years! And the body we keep poking open and fixing is toxic, full of dangerous levels of repressazine numbdex and other whitebread derivatives! Why do we do it? I thought we were supposed to be healers . . ."

And then the anthologist fell silent.

Silent, pregnant pause.

"You realize, of course, that you are right," said the doctor finally . . . "and you also realize that this leaves us no alternative but to anthologize you . . ."

And the room was silent.

In the light breeze from the air-conditioning ducts, the patient's pages rustled softly.

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Copyright 4004 B.C. Ponderosus Exclamentus