• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Yesterday Don’t Matter if It’s Gone


robin1.jpgI’ve been pleasure reading again. Yanked myself out of the TV room and curled up with a few books. I’m not hating on TV. I love to TV. I’d like to work in a writer’s room. I can binge on any series with the best of them. But when I read I just read. I don’t shop online and do email. I slow down. And I remember what I love about my job and books and all the million decisions that go into making them. I’m reading a book right now that has footnotes (it’s a memoir) and I wonder if the author and editor talked about that. For me, it’s a distraction. But the writer is also very precise and you can see the way her mind works. The gears.

Where do you stand on footnotes? Endnotes? No notes?

18 Responses

  1. Footnotes for information that amplifies or offers a different perspective; endnotes for citation.

  2. Endnotes for memoir. Footnotes for academic works. No footnotes in fiction ever.

  3. I just finished Agnes Poirier’s “Left Bank” which was loaded with subtle footnotes. Somehow they were unobtrusive, which I loved, esp. as this nonfiction book read like a novel.

    Also, Paula McLain’s new novel “Love and Ruin” had notes everywhere: prologue, epilogue and author’s note. I loved it all.

    So, yes, if well done, bring on the notes

  4. Betsy, if you would, I’m curious: what is this book your were reading where you could tell how the author’s mind works; a memoir; today’s post. Thanks! Jude

  5. No hard, fast rules for me. Are the footnotes informative, ancillary, or distracting in whatever-the-context? Sometimes I get curious – what am I missing? If it syncs with the flow and tenor of the book, footnotes are fine. Disruptive, not so much.

  6. Uggh on footnotes. Too distracting, interupts the flow, and often feels like the writer is trying for clever and cute, with a touch of smug. Oddly, the use of footnotes seems to be on the rise.

  7. End Notes That Are In Readable Size Print. Books Are Being Published, (Or Republished,) In Microcsopic Print. After Time On The pc Screen, It Is Even Worse. If I Could Send A WWW. Message, It Would Be Nothing Below Roman TEN. I Am Not The Only One Who Has Noticed This, & I Would Like To Keep The Decent Eyesite I Have Left. Books On Sale On-Line Should Print A Sample From The Text, Instead Of Three Views Of The Cover Art. ~~~Blind Lemon Heaney.

    *”While The Sun Is Bright/Or In The Darkest Night/No One Knows/She Comes And Goes.”


    *First Generation The Rolling Stones


  8. I sometimes find footnotes fascinating and helpful, mostly in classics where I don’t understand all the references, but I don’t think they’re necessary. Endnotes aren’t as helpful because I usually have to flip back to the page in question for the context. Although if it’s a memoir, I’d probably rather have endnotes than footnotes.

    In fiction, I don’t like footnotes…although Good Omens is a marked exception. But the footnotes in Good Omens are a joke. They’re all humorous. So I don’t mind those, because it’s not the authors actually feeling like they need to explain something for you; they’re just kind of an extra joke while reading, and I adore them.

    • I just finished reading a novel with wonderfully funny footnotes, which include, among other wildly disparate enjoyments, a running battle between Editor and Author.
      You might just love it too.
      It’s called “Preincarnate” by Shaun Micallef. It was outrageously silly, yet somehow seemed possible. Probable. In fact, almost certainly the whole thing happened. Will happen. Is happening.

      • Hey, harry. Good to see you. Hope all is well out your way.

        • All good, except those things that ain’t. Those things, they’ll never end! Until they do, of course.

          I don’t internet much, and whenever I try to comment here, it usually doesn’t go through somehow, so I give up. You’d see me more if I was patient, but alas…

          At least I still see you a bit from my hidey-hole here. (Imagine if I’d spelled that Heidi-hole. Spelling is still important.)

  9. I love all your posts and am a big fan of your work. Ive been an independent editor for 30 some years and before that 11 years at major NY houses. May I send u a snail mail? Can I find your address on line or will u send it to me? Thanks Sandi Gelles-Cole

  10. “Where do you stand on footnotes? Endnotes? No notes?”

    I’m fine with footnotes. They can be distracting, but they do what they do. If they’re all at the back of the book, I usually read them — review them, actually — after I’ve finished reading the main text. They can function as a kind of review that way. I guess that’s when they’re endnotes, but I still think of them as footnotes. No notes are okay, too, depending on whether or not the book could use some notes.

    Sometimes, I’ll read a footnoted text all the way through without reading the footnotes, then go back and either read it again with the footnotes, or just read the footnotes. Or sometimes, I’ll read it through with the footnotes, then go back and read it without the footnotes. Depends.

    Reading is fun. There’s no right way to do it, though some ways make more sense than others. For instance, in Western culture, reading from top left to bottom right. Though, again, depending — I knew a technical writer who proofread from bottom right to top left. But that’s not really reading for fun.

  11. Distraction. Irritating. It seems most of the info in footnotes could be woven into the story. Unless, the footnotes are part of the form. Which just doesn’t work for me in memoir or fiction. Back when I was paying an institution good money to enlighten the world of literature for me, and they had the graduate students lumped in with the undergrads, charging them double for the dumb-down, Footnote: That’s a story length angry rant, I read The Third Policeman and thought at first it was pretty clever but really after I cleaned the vomit off the last page I realized it was just irritating despite the authors possible attempt at humor. Footnotes: Irritating.

  12. Flatfooted.*

    *I think of Groucho often in these times. I’m dreaming of a beneficial anarchy at a point when we’re arrogantly bumbling toward disaster.

  13. I’ve started offering “footnotes” in performance — footnotes to the oral tradition! Do footnotes dance? I’m all for ’em.

  14. Footnotes feel like a device to add credibility to the main text. Don’t doubt this – it happened- and here are the footnotes to prove it. Before online shopping they were a rabbit hole you could get lost in.

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