Until about a hundred years ago rational men lived like spies in an enemy country. They never walked abroad unless disguised in irony or allegory. To have revealed their true selves would have been fatal.
Today their status is more that of guerrillas. They snipe from cover, ambush stragglers, harass retreating rear guards, cut communications, and now and then execute swift forays against detached units of the enemy. But they dare not yet risk an open engagement with the main force; they would be massacred. Their life is dangerous but exciting and is warmed by a sense of camaraderie not often known among the dull conscripts of orthodoxy.
This book is intended as a sort of handbook for young recruits in the gay cause of common sense. It indicates where the main armies of ignorance are now encamped and tells in a secret code what garrisons are undermanned or mutinous. It tries to show the use of cover and camouflage and the techniques of infiltration and retreat. It maps road blocks and mine fields and shows how to rig a booby trap. It warns of counterespionage and gives— again in code—the five infallible signs to know a fool. When the recruit has finished with it he can toss it over the wall into the enemy’s barracks. It may encourage desertion.
Perhaps the most entertaining preface I have ever seen to a book. Comes from the preface of Bergen Evans’s “Natural History of Nonsense (1946).