Indexing, National Day of
March 30, 2017 2:33 PM   Subscribe

In our Google era, indexers are the unsung heroes of the publishing world argues Sam Leith, honorary president of the Society of Indexers, on National Indexing Day [pdf]. Among the varied uses of the index Leith highlights is the comedy index, the subject of a blog series by indexer Paula Clarke Bain, so far up to four entries: I, Partridge, Alan Partridge: Nomad, Toast on Toast and Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey.
posted by Kattullus (14 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Criminy, the moment I go to close my open tabs I notice a better version of my title joke as a comment on the Guardian article.
posted by Kattullus at 2:35 PM on March 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Dennis Duncan's blog, Table of Discontents: A History of the English Book Index, is worth following.
posted by verstegan at 2:57 PM on March 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

and when you see one it’s usually because they’ve been run over by an 18-wheeler.

That won't kill a properly trained indexer. They can't be bargained with. They can't be reasoned with. They don't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop... ever, until you are classified!

Oh, no, wait, that's catalogers. It turns out you can reason with indexers.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:00 PM on March 30, 2017 [6 favorites]

I rarely judge a book by its cover, I often judge a book by its index. Nothing makes research easier than a good one. Truly, indexers do the Lord's work.
On the flip side, bad cookbook indexes are the bane of my life, I have books that I know have a great recipe using x ingredient, and the index doesn't have any entries for x, drives me bananas.
posted by threecheesetrees at 6:02 PM on March 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

"Sea Water: see Water, Sea"
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:44 PM on March 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Never index your own book.

Vladimir Nabokov famously provided an index for Pale Fire -- or, rather, the crazy narrator of Pale Fire provides an index for the 999-line poem that makes up the first part of the book (the other two parts are a commentary on that poem, and the index). It's basically a parody of an index, in which some of the main rules of indexing are intentionally broken. The entry for Word golf, for example, contains a locator (page number) but also a see reference to Lass, which has a reference to Mass, which refers to Male, which refers back to Word golf. Or the entry for "Shadows, the," which reads: "its leader's terrible name cannot be mentioned, even in the Index to the obscure work of a scholar" -- and there is no locator provided at all. And much other fun as well ...
posted by anothermug at 8:00 PM on March 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Back in the dark ages in library school, I took one of the last indexing courses offered by my institution. It was amazing and fun and at no point did anyone in the class ever say, "This is a valid career path." Even in 2000, library school professors were telling students that indexing was going the way of the telephone operator. Which is a damn shame, because it turns out I'm slightly too reasonable to be a cataloger.
posted by teleri025 at 6:26 AM on March 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

Back when I was a production editor, the indexers were my favorite team members. They were always cool under pressure (and being the last, they often were). They were always fun to talk to. To the indexers!
posted by dame at 7:15 AM on March 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

What a coincidence: I just moved to a new cube, and the previous occupant was some kind of indexer. I cleaned out a bunch of old floppies of 90s DOS indexing software, but kept the "Proceedings of the 20th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Indexers, May 1988."
posted by cosmic.osmo at 9:34 AM on March 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

Apparently, cosmic.osmo, that book's worth at least thirty bucks, with some Amazon sellers charging a whole lot more.
posted by Kattullus at 10:11 AM on March 31, 2017

My copy's in like new or at least very good condition, so I guess I'm in for quite a windfall! I wonder what I'll do with my $2,000*.

* Lately, Amazon's used book prices have been over-inflated garbage. It's not a new problem, but it seems like everything I look at now that's not mass-market and even a little bit out of print is being offered for at least two or three times the new price—that is if I don't want a copy that was chewed on by someone's dog.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 12:58 PM on March 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Not from the index but rather the bibliography, there is this wonderful bit of self reference in Godel, Escher, Bach:

Gebstadter, Egbert B. Copper, Silver, Gold: an Indestructible Metallic Alloy. Perth: Acidic Books, 1979. A formidable hodge-podge, turgid and confused—yet remarkably similar to the present work. Professor Gebstadter's Shandean digressions include some excellent examples of indirect self-reference. Of particular interest is a reference in its well-annotated bibliography to an isomorphic, but imaginary, book.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 7:51 AM on April 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Basking in the indexer love here. Thank you all. You can see more about National Indexing Day on my indexday blog and on Twitter on the hashtag #indexday. My next blog or two will be on the comedy book indexes of Charlie Brooker (Dumb, Hate, Hell and Screen Burn). Indexing, happy.
posted by PC Bain at 1:18 PM on April 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

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