Tuesday, 2 June 2009

A note on footnotes

A quick word on footnotes. That's right, those boring things you skip over in the middle of books. They're everywhere. In fact, in academic writing at least, they're almost as important as the main text. You learn things that you wouldn't otherwise have learned, find the references to back things up, and generally get all sorts of bonus extras, DVD fashion.

At the moment, however, they're taking over my life. I'm at the stage of putting more connections to other things in the PhD, which means more footnotes. I'm also checking the ones I've already put in, which would be a lot easier if there weren't hundreds of them.

So, in the interests of remembering that they can be fun, and aren't just there to take up half the page, I thought I'd remind myself of the two masters of the art of the footnote in fiction: Terry Pratchett and Jasper Fforde. Pratchett uses them everywhere, particularly in his early work. Most of the time, they're an excuse for an extra joke, or an explanation about concepts such as Milton Keynes, which is almost the same thing. Sometimes he even uses footnotes on his footnotes.

Fforde's are a bit weirder, thanks to the concept of the footnoterphone in his Thursday Next novels. Essentially, several characters communicate by means of them, which means that the main thrust of the book jumps down to the footnotes for paragraphs on end. It's clever in its way, and Fforde is very funny in other areas, but I know which approach to footnotes I prefer. Of course, right now I'd prefer an approach to the things that involved their utter obliteration, at least if I didn't think that would leave us with the prospect of doing everything through end notes instead.

No comments: