I’m at an age where I really enjoy forewords in books. I know that’s an odd thing to say. When I was a kid I used to read them because I was a completionist. I felt that if I didn’t read every word in a book, I hadn’t fully enjoyed it. Which is odd, because at that time I hated forewords, finding them dull, pedantic, and unrelated to the book itself. Once, I even abandoned a book because the foreword left me so completely and furiously bored. It was Frankenstein, which to this day I feel irresponsible having left it unread.
Now, I see all new purpose and meaning in a foreword. I’ve been reading a lot of books for reference and research, preparing for a new webcomic to release (hopefully) in 2015. I find myself soaking in the forewords as fascinating windows into the context of the book itself. The world it was created in, the time and place in history that shaped it, the significance it had in that moment and from then on. In the book I just started reading, the foreword was written by a woman in the 1980s commenting on how the original printing in the 1960s was fairly even-handed in avoiding sexist bias that would have defined the man researching it and writing it in the 1950s. She went on further to point out that her own times were much more advanced, yet she fully expected that a person in the 21st century would look back on the foreword she was writing and have an entirely different perspective on her words. It was a surreal moment to realize that I was that reader, as though she had her own window of time and had seen me reading.
I find myself more interested in the contexts of things as an adult. It’s a new layer that I never knew existed before, yet it was there all along. I just didn’t know how to look. I didn’t have the context to see the context. Now that it’s all shifted, I look on things that were once familiar and see them with new eyes, with both good and bad results.
How has context changed your experience of things in your life?