The ook-bay is here!
Oh heavens, that was thoughtless, now you’re all clamoring for your copies (copies, plural: each one of you wants multiple copies) and the sad fact is that only one copy is currently in existence. It is on my living room floor, and despite having resided there for only three hours it is already illustrated with cat hair.
Probably this will be a super-special collector’s item one day. It has a distinctive binding (a bright red, slightly broken binder), not one but two different sections where I three-hole hole-punched the holes into the wrong margin before realizing I had it backward, the cat fur I mentioned, and no indexes. Also, the first page is mangled all to hell. I agreed to let one of my colleagues open the FedEx box when it arrived today: I wanted to support her enthusiasm, and also she had a razor in her hand. It was a very persuasive argument. So she opened the box, but she accidentally sliced up the first page, but I did not criticize her, as she had a razor in her hand.
I gotta say, it’s an attractive book. Now that it’s been typeset with pretty formatting and graphics, it looks like a proper grown-up book, not just a term paper for English class.
It’s also really long. Even accounting for the blank space (the pages in this version are printed on only one side per sheet), it’s still really, really long, coming in at 376 pages, plus front matter, plus the About the Author page (which has the best author photo ever, but you’ll have to consult your multiple copies to see what I mean).
And of course there are the indexes. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate indexing? No?
I hate indexing. Given the choice between indexing or wrestling a crocodile, I would go with the crocodile: it would be over quicker, and I’d have a better chance of survival. Against a crocodile I might prevail. I have read the Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook. I know what I’m doing. And possibly I’d be able to reason with the crocodile, talk him into forgetting our differences and grabbing a cuppa.
There is no reasoning with the index. For two hours last night I tried working with it, and do you know how far I got? I got through chapter two… (which sounds decent, but let me finish the sentence)…
… of the table of contents.
In other words, two hours of mind-numbing labor got me through one page and a bit of the next of what is, essentially, a short list.
The problem with the subject index (and thank God I’ve already finished the title/author index, all I’ve got to do is add page numbers) is that I have to cross-reference everything. Obviously I need an entry for the “Racial and Cultural Identity” section, but do I list it by itself? Do I link it somehow to Biographies, Autobiographies, and Memoirs, of which it is a subset? And how do I indicate that this is but one section that includes books about racial and cultural identity? People will also want to see the index entry for race (which concludes with “See also under specific races”).
I’d always assumed that the subject index was a fairly straightforward creature, like so:
1. List subject
2. Indicate page number.
In fact it is a complicated organism. Some readers—I don’t think very highly of them, I’m sure you don’t either—will not read my book from cover to cover, but rather will jump straight to the index. For those poor miserable sods, I need to construct the index in such a way that they can get straight to the pages that discuss the topic they’re interested in (even if they don’t know the right vocabulary. “Transsexuality. See also queer identity”).
So I need to cut this blog post short and get back to my index, but I will leave you with a poem by Anne Bradsteet, who has been dead for 337 years and will therefore probably not mind that I am reproducing her full text here. Good ol’ Anne, she’s my spiritual sister. Read on:
The Author To Her Book
Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth did’st by my side remain,
Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad exposed to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call.
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
The visage was so irksome in my sight,
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
I stretcht thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run’st more hobbling than is meet.
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun cloth, i’ th’ house I find.
In this array, ‘mongst vulgars may’st thou roam.
In critic’s hands, beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known.
If for thy father askt, say, thou hadst none;
And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.