14 March 2013

How Do You Feel about Footnotes?



So.  What we have here is a page from Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.  I've been reading this for weeks but I hope my pace will pick up, now that I've finished with a few tasks that had been taking up too much time, namely, studying and practicing for the GRE.

The first thing you will notice about this page is that it contains not one word of actual text.  Well, there's text there.  More precisely, the page contains not one word that is not a footnote.  It is a page that exists solely for the purpose of footnoting the main body of text.  Not only is this a page that exists tertiary to the story itself, but it is footnote continued from the previous page.  And it isn't even the longest footnote in the book.

Nevertheless, I can't decide if I love or hate this phenomenon yet.  There have certainly been instances when a footnote has seemed so unimportant that I cannot for the life of me determine why it has been included, and there have also been footnotes that I cannot for the life of me determine why it wasn't just a part of the damn story.  I just can't deny that act itself has the effect of supplementing the character of the telling.

Have you read it?  Your thoughts?

14 comments:

  1. supplemental volumes for greater characterization of a side character or the expansion of a referenced incident versus tucking them into footnotes? I'd probably go with the former. 'Ladies of Grace Adieu' has a short story that supplements this book (one of Jonathan Strange's trips).

    Sean and Natalya have both read this book and it just stares at me. But having read House of Leaves and being amused from excerpts on Infinite Jest (which Sean reads)I can see where footnotes work in the story. but I would be annoyed if it made the reading even more tedious than it already is for no really good reason.

    I hope the studying for the GRE is going well.

    ~L

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so impressed that Natalya has read this. That is amazing.

      Thanks for the well wishes. Took it last weekend and did fine. Happy to be done with it.

      Delete
  2. Dude, I thought this book was awesome. But. It took my MONTHS to get through it, because even as I admired it, it was just so freaking LONG. Also, I never really invested in any of the characters, even though I loved the setting and storytelling.

    Ultimately, I don't think it was the footnotes that bothered me so much as the fact that sometimes the footnotes were MORE interesting than the immediate story. Which is not a great way to pace a novel. But, I loved Moby-Dick, so I'm kind of a sucker for supplemental stuff in books.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I've only been met with one footnote that gave me that feeling so far, but then I still have a long way to go. I think you hit on what has kept me from deciding how I feel. I like the way she has created the characters, but I don't much care about them yet.

      Delete
  3. I just want to point out that this is not the correct way to continue a footnote on the next page. LoL.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will have to defer to you on this one :)

      Delete
  4. I haven't read this book, but I have come across footnotes that are ridiculous. In general, I like my footnotes to provide at most 3-5 lines of additional useful info to the interested reader, or snark. Robin Dunn in his nonfiction provided fascinating tidbits AND snark all in one in his notes. Also Terry Pratchett makes use of FNs for humor in his Tiffany Aching series. I did listen to Caleb Carr's latest book, The Legend of Broken, which put all the FNs at the end of the performance (an additional 3-4 hours of listening). I think in this case, I would have enjoyed the FNs in the book or subvocal in the audioversion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Compared to Carr's, I think I'd prefer not to have them all piled up at the end. Guess I better quit whining.

      Delete
  5. I have this book planned for reading this year, for the Women of SF Reading Challenge, and to catch-up on the few outstanding Hugo winners I still need to read.

    I've recently finished "Blackout" and was so pleasantly surprised by it, I immediately got on with "All Clear." Both volumes total an immense 1400-odd pages! Now, this book "Jonathan Strange" etc. appears a lot more daunting, and not only for its adiposity! Will it hold my attention over the vastness of its pages? It seems you are laboring through it.

    Oh, and I do detest footnotes. One of my erstwhile professors once told me that one should be able to say everything you want to, or need to, in the main body of text. He said it was lazy people who negated on their responsibility to adequately incorporate the research into the main body that cop out with footnotes. Then again, my thesis so long ago was as a result of something I did read in a footnote.

    I'll judge the validity of these footnotes when I finally read this book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Emil, I do not want to see numbers that high. I'm excited to read another from Willis, but geez...

      I am laboring through it but that's mostly because other things are keeping me from it.

      Delete
  6. I enjoyed the footnotes. For the most part, I found the supplemental info helpful in creating the mythology of this universe. Could the footnotes have been their own chapters? Probably, but using the construct of a reference reinforced the illusion that this alternative England was real and documented.

    I loved this book. Every time I opened it, I felt like I was wrapped in a quilt with a cup of hot cocoa on a cold winter's night. But I think Clarke could have used a good editor to quicken the storytelling. I have a friend who hated the book, and claims that Clarke had enough clout with her publisher to push the book through with no editing. Not sure of her source for this, but she's the type of person to scour the internet to reinforced her opinions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oddly enough, I know exactly what you're talking about. It does somehow have a strangely cozy feeling...

      Delete
  7. I loved this book, but I can see how it would not appeal to everyone. I try to be a little careful about recommending it to people, because it's hard to guess if a given person will love it or hate it. I suppose there are few people who end up between those extremes, by the time they finish the whole 1000+ pages. I usually looked forward to the footnotes and the little side stories they often contained. I felt like they fleshed out the history of the fictional world, which was one of my favorite parts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have been thinking you would probably like it. I see you must have read it before your blog; I'll be interested to hear more of your thoughts.

      My ridiculous gripes aside, if this were just a book someone had recommended, I'd be pretty damn happy at this point, despite the length!

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...