Author Topic: Footnotes & Endnotes  (Read 919 times)

Sin Agog

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Footnotes & Endnotes
« on: July 01, 2020, 03:41:08 PM »
How do you handle them?  Do you read them instantly, wait until the end of the sentence/paragraph, play it by ear, or just ignore the flow-ruining fuckers altogether?  I've just finished reading a tattered copy of The Confessions of Lady Nijo, a memoir by the courtesan to a 13th Century Japanese emperor who later became a roving Buddhist nun.  I really liked it- she was used and abused since the age of fifteen, but maintained her dignity throughout (well, maybe with the exception of the time of year when the court men ceremonially whack their lovers' vaginas with a big stick to ensure they give birth to a male*, but even then she got her own back by getting all the court women to hide and then spring out and dick-whack them back).  This thing is absolutely littered with endnotes, and I think I genuinely damaged my enjoyment of the book by diligently following them all, that was until a gust of wind came along and separated the endnotes from the spine, blowing them away into the South Downs.  The book became fifty times better without them.  I didn't really need to know that such and such poem† was another reference to the muthucking Tale of Genji.  Might just do away with them altogether in future.  Then again, I did plan to read that Ballard story one day whose main body comprises of this sentence "A discharged Broadmoor patient compiles Notes Towards a Mental Breakdown recalling his wife's murder, his trial and exoneration," with everything else being told in footnotes.  This new rule of mine would make getting the‡ most out of that one a little tricky.



*I am unsure if this ritual was the genesis of the word 'bushwhacker'

†Dead Japanese people apparently solely communicated to one another via four-line poems, usually with some kind of allusion to either the moon or their damp sleeves

‡Don't really have anything to say here about the word 'the', sorry

Re: Footnotes & Endnotes
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2020, 03:47:02 PM »
I prefer footnotes, as then you can glance at them and decide instantly if you want to read them or not. The publishing fashion is very much for endnotes though, despite them being more inconvenient.

Sin Agog

  • Dogs fucked the pope; no fault of mine
Re: Footnotes & Endnotes
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2020, 04:20:53 PM »
For sure.  Even if they end up taking up half the page, a footnote is still so much more appealing.  Despite my OP, there are often some good anecdotes sprinkled among the notes.  More often than not, though, they're some musty translator or editor's attempt at reminding you that they exist and how they've been working really, really hard by catching some allusion that you benefit not one iota from knowing about.

Mister Six

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Re: Footnotes & Endnotes
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2020, 04:48:00 PM »
I prefer footnotes, as then you can glance at them and decide instantly if you want to read them or not. The publishing fashion is very much for endnotes though, despite them being more inconvenient.

Yeah. Endnotes are fine if they're just a big list of citations or fuller quotes for context or whatever, but when it comes to asides and interesting but tangential details, footnotes are clearly preferable.

Growing up reading Terry Pratchett probably helped - about 30 percent of his novels are footnotes. Sometimes they would stretch on into the next page. But since they were there to squeeze in more jokes, it made sense to read them when they popped up then go back to the story.

I recently had some essays on the comic Hellblazer published in a pop-academic book and heartily enjoyed filling up pages with footnote asides and obscure trivia.

Mister Six

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Re: Footnotes & Endnotes
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2020, 04:51:45 PM »
We all know about using the nb code[1] on here to create footnotes, right? You can do as many as you like,[2] and the reader can use the little links to jump back and forth, if it's a long post.
 1. As in bookending text with "nb" and "/nb", but with square brackets not quote marks.
 2. See?

Re: Footnotes & Endnotes
« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2020, 04:56:03 PM »
More often than not, though, they're some musty translator or editor's attempt at reminding you that they exist and how they've been working really, really hard by catching some allusion that you benefit not one iota from knowing about.

I think if you're reading Japanese courtly literature, then the translator does have a responsibility to at least provide information about what the hell the Palace Attendant of the Left or whatever actually is, or why they're suddenly going on about turtledoves. I totally understand why you'd skip that stuff though.

Sin Agog

  • Dogs fucked the pope; no fault of mine
Re: Footnotes & Endnotes
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2020, 05:43:17 PM »
I think if you're reading Japanese courtly literature, then the translator does have a responsibility to at least provide information about what the hell the Palace Attendant of the Left or whatever actually is, or why they're suddenly going on about turtledoves. I totally understand why you'd skip that stuff though.

True, historical stuff is often seen as separate from pleasure-reads (though I just think of it as another form of transportation), but there is a little OCD ponce fellow in me who thinks I'm being a div and missing out by not reading them, when the reality is the flow and emotion is so much more important.  I guess the solution is to stand in strong winds until the endnotes in every book I'm reading just happen to blow out and nothing else besides.

Endnotes on kindles are even worse.  You've got to try and press/hold a little number (or, if you don't have a touch, scroll down to the exact point and click a button), which transports you to a different section of the ebook where you have to go through the same rigmarole again to get back.

BlodwynPig

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Re: Footnotes & Endnotes
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2020, 06:07:56 PM »






House of Leaves if you were wondering

Re: Footnotes & Endnotes
« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2020, 06:11:35 PM »
Endnotes on kindles are even worse.  You've got to try and press/hold a little number (or, if you don't have a touch, scroll down to the exact point and click a button), which transports you to a different section of the ebook where you have to go through the same rigmarole again to get back.

The worst are pdfs, where you have to scroll or remember page numbers or use that awkward 'go back' function.

Re: Footnotes & Endnotes
« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2020, 06:17:55 PM »
I grew up reading Pratchett and I used to love the footnotes. They were like little nuggets of jokes and trivia.

In my own writing, I kept using them for years, but eventually I went off them, because as one reader told me "I never know if I'm supposed to read them or not." It sounds sort of silly but it did strike a chord with me - like, if I want the reader to read something, I'll put it in the text proper, and if I'm fine with them not reading it why am I including it at all? This is basically consistent with my increasingly ruthless approach to editing.

But as ever It Depends On What Sort of Thing You're Writing Doesn't It.

buttgammon

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Re: Footnotes & Endnotes
« Reply #10 on: July 02, 2020, 09:26:01 AM »
Always footnotes over endnotes (unless it's just citation info). I read a heavily annotated edition of The Divine Comedy early in the lockdown, which had all of the editorial notes as endnotes, and I ended up having to use a separate bookmark to keep track. In this case it was probably unavoidable but I'm not a fan.

I thought I used footnotes well (if sparingly), but I'm currently working on a draft chapter of my thesis where my supervisor took me to task for using a few of them to make vague points, so there's a potential pitfall of them there.

Famous Mortimer

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Re: Footnotes & Endnotes
« Reply #11 on: July 02, 2020, 06:42:35 PM »
When I read "Infinite Jest" (which has some endnotes which go on for multiple pages), I ended up just having two bookmarks.

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