The first story I'd read of this brilliant collection of stories was The Circus. I loved (and still love) it - it tells of how the young boy Aram and his friend ran off to the circus whenever it came to town, despite being punished for it afterwards, every time. The writing style is all at once casual, bluntly comical, and very affecting. I read it out of an anthology, and had, ever since, wanted to get my hands on the book itself.
For years I scoured - the bookstores in the days sans Internet shopping; the online bookstores in later times - I never saw it physically on any shelves, and it was out of stock for the longest time on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I managed to get a William Saroyan anthology at Kinokuniya, but not his (arguably) most famous work.
After a while, I stopped looking - but I never forgot this book, or how much I wanted it. Some months ago, I did a search for it out of the blue, and to my delight, it was in stock at Amazon! Finally - I found the book I'd wanted for more than a decade. It took its time making its way to me, but there it was, at last, in my hands.
Did I devour its pages immediately? Did I not wait a single minute to read and reread my favourite story until I could memorize the very phrases that made me chuckle? No, reader, I did not. For reasons I do not expect anyone to understand or accept, I saved it - like some treasure to be savoured slowly, word by word, page by page. Yes, I took my time with the book.
It was by the time I reached the tenth story, that I noticed, to my utter horror, that almost the entire story was missing. It was then too late to have the book returned.
A total of eight pages were simply not there. Need I describe how I felt? Aghast, infuriated, bewildered, stupefied... and regretful - why did I not check the book when first I got it?! But then again, who actually checks newly-purchased books for completeness of pages? It was devastating!
Well, alright - "devastating" was exaggerating it a little. To be fair, I was rather upset for a day or two. Just a day or two. I could always order another copy of the book, I figured. Surely it wouldn't take as much effort as it did so many years ago, and surely the cost is justified by the sheer passion I have for it, I reasoned. There is no need to be miserable. I could buy another copy.
I could. I haven't, as yet, but I could...