Monday, January 10, 2005


Footnotes in fashion

I just started reading The Golem's Eye, the second novel in Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus trilogy. One of the things that makes the prologue a pleasure to read is the footnotes. The narrator, Bartimaeus the djinni himself, adds asides in footnotes such as this one:

Each sentry was a minor djinni, scarcely better than a common foliot. Times were hard in Prague; the magicians were strapped for slaves and quality control was not what it should have been. The chosen semblances of my sentries proved as much. Instead of fearsome, warlike guises, I was presented with two shifty vampire bats, a weasel, a pop-eyed lizard, and a small and rather mournful frog.
Then I realized that I seem to have read rather a lot of footnotes in novels in the last year or so. There are those in The Amulet of Samarkand, the first book in the trilogy. By the way, I just flipped through Golem, and it looks as though most of it is footnote-less, and narrated in the third person. Oh well. More on the book when I finish it.

There are footnotes in Lost in a Good Book, in which Thursday Next, Special Operative in literary detection, finds herself with a lawyer who can only communicate with her using footnotes. Lost is, like Golem, the second book in a series, but Jasper Fforde seems to be threatening to write far more than three Thursday Next books. I devoured The Eyre Affair, the first of them, enjoying its British bookish humour. I found Lost harder going, and couldn't get through the third Thursday. I don't think the books are getting worse, just that two of them should have been my limit.

And of course, there are many wonderful footnotes in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.


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