Introductions provide interesting insights to the minds of authors and readers alike. Some people immediately skip over the introduction and into the “meat” of the book. Others feel like they aren’t getting their money’s worth if they don’t carefully and cautiously review anything the book has to offer. Do you read the introduction?
Depending on the author, the type of book, the time I have, and my general awareness of pre-existing works, I do and I don’t read the introductions (I feel the same about afterwards). Sometimes I just want to have more time with the author. Introductions can feel like sitting down with them over morning coffee, they can explain themselves a bit, set me up for my journey, and give me something I can offer that maybe book club doesn’t already know. Again, that depends on the book, the edition, and if anyone else is paying attention. Sometimes I don’t. If it is a classic work I am less likely to read the introduction. I don’t care about what was printed when or rights or anything that may be included before something like Inferno by Dante Alighieri because frankly it ruined my attempt to read it because I only knew how many of the references I wasn’t getting.
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman came with an introduction. A lot of short stories seem to come with them. His introduction seemed to gravitate around the use of trigger warnings in writing both online and off. Are we are for or against the warnings? He pondered on the page, “What we read as adults should be read, I think, with no warnings or alerts beyond, perhaps: enter at your own risk. We need to find out what fiction is, what it means to us, an experience that is going to be unlike anyone else’s experience of the story.”
I’ve warmed to this idea. Stories should be dangerous. Also, it has caused me to try and soften myself in reading this work. I want to feel it, not as a reader that causally observes, but as someone who allows themselves to invest, to feel in danger, to experience these tales against the backdrop of my own experiences. As much as it is a warning about authors and publishers steeling their audiences against what is to come, it is also a welcome to readers to drop our guard, not assume the happy ending, but let ourselves feel along the journey.
So I’m trying to stay open, to put myself into these character’s shoes, to feel the way they pinch on the long road ahead. I want to blisters, the soreness, but also the freeing exhaustion in removing them for a night of sound sleep.