Monday, August 31, 2009

Fancying Footnotes

I love footnotes. I know they drive some people crazy; some people want them banished to the end of the book, or at least to the end of the chapter. Some people even want to scrub them out of books all together.

Me, I like footnotes in my fiction. Eaters of the Dead was good for that, though not as good as Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I never finished Infinite Jest, but if I remember correctly, it had endnotes. An unfortunate decision, I fear. It's hard enough to read a thousand-page novel without having to flip back and forth between parts of the book. Actually, with that many pages, you're not flipping back and forth. I think flipping has a three-hundred-page maximum. At a thousand pages, you're flopping. Or maybe floupping.

Another of my favorite footnoted figures of fiction is The Annotated Alice. I was rereading it today, enjoying the lengthy notes on "Jabberwocky," when I stumbled on this tidbit:

"A magnificent German translation [of "Jabberwocky"] was made by Robert Scott, an eminent Greek scholar who had collaborated with Dean Liddell (Alice's father) on a Greek lexicon."

Both the book and my jaw dropped into my lap. Alice Liddell's father was that Liddell? Liddell & Scott Liddell?* I guess I should have expected the Dean of an Oxford college to have accomplished something other than making friends with fairytale writers, but I didn't expect Alice's dad to have edited one of the Greek lexica. Talk about being overshadowed.

*Incidently, I don't know why the Wikipedia page about Liddell & Scott claims that Liddell accented the second syllable of his name. Carroll repeatedly puns on Liddell as "little." Gardiner claims the name "rhymes with fiddle" (p. xviii in my edition) and argues, "We know how "Liddell" was pronounced because in Carroll's day the students at Oxford composed the following couplet: I am the Dean and this is Mrs. Liddell. / She plays the first, and I the second fiddle" (p. 75).

No comments: