Work, & Plenty Of It

What I have been doing with the festive season, apart from the obvious (writing Christmas cards, shooting rats…) is getting on top of a crisis handknitted by Oxford University Press, who required me to proofread and index my book for them by December 17th. The book in question, all 627 pp of it, turned up, with this requirement, in the first week of December. I can’t hazard a guess at how long it has taken, but the answer is, all the waking hours not positively occupied by something else, since the first week of December. Hence neglecting the Blog. The index is well over the 3,000 headword mark, and is developing its own momentum, indeed, its own sort of appeal based on sheer weirdness — a page printed out from within the letter A includes Artemisia, the Arval Brethren, Astrology, the Inca Atahualpa, Attila the Hun, St Augustine, Augustus the Strong, and Jane Austen. Even I am becoming amazed by this book, and I wrote the damn thing. Meanwhile in another part of my life, edits on some fiction have also come to haunt my desk: the list of words the copyeditor has asked me to look at has, to an even greater extent, developed a mad poetry all its own — here is the list for C. Chimney stack cruise missile, colourwash, carry-on (noun), cafĂ©, clifftop, Cockneyisms, camembert, collarbones, the City, carpark, cherry-picker, crowstep gables, chimney-liner, Cup-a-Soup, crewel-work, camper van, car-enamel, chimney-sweep, chat room, cross-legged, cheekbones, cul-de-sac, check-up, churchgoer, cold-cures, cashflow, childminder, comeback, cotoneaster, compost heaps, churchyard, Cats’ Protection League, campanula, crow’s feet. Well, dearies: what the heck do you think I have been writing about?

10 Responses to “Work, & Plenty Of It”

  1. Andreas Minor Says:

    I have no idea, but I’m sure that if Nabakov were still around, he would be inspired to collate a fine selection of indices to books that as yet don’t exist.

    (I’m far too busy, sadly - but perhaps if we all do a short one each?)

  2. Janey Says:

    That is a very wonderful idea — taking off from the index in Pale Fire and getting stranger. If you write one, I’ll write one. Anyone else want to play?

  3. jacky Says:

    I have yet to read a novel that did not include the phrase, “motes of dust” - so perhaps this would be a good entry for any proposed new index.

  4. Jon Says:

    Perhaps we might all take one letter of the alphabet each, then collate the results.

  5. The other German Guest Says:

    It IS a great idea. Can I do “Catch 22″? So many words to learn. Have to decide on a letter, though.
    Would a collection of indices fall into poetry or non-fiction?

  6. Janey Says:

    I don’t think I’ve used ‘motes of dust’ EVER. What would be the weirdest sort of Borgesian Index? Several individuals each indexing a book of the imagination; or 26 people each taking a letter? I fear that the latter would just turn into a Silly Words Collection, whereas indexes to unwritten books might be a bit more gripping, especially if the unwritten book was named.

  7. Jon Says:

    Having considered (and started one already), I agree with Jane. “One letter each” was a wrong ‘un. Everyone should be tackling their own unwritten book.

  8. The other German Guest Says:

    I would like to participate, but wouldn’t that be cheating, since I haven’t even written a “real” story/book yet? Or should I write the book after the index? How many entries should we include?

  9. Janey Says:

    The Other German Guest might write a book one day; and when he does he will have the index all ready. All he needs to do is imagine a writable, or unwritable, book, and index it… Alternatively he can visit, find an Unwritten Book not written by someone else, and index that. I think short, slight, elegant indices are the way forward. We all have work to do.

  10. Andreas Minor Says:

    Count me in, by the way - but not for a few weeks. I have some computer installation, writing and editing to do, along with a new flat and new office to find, all within a new city. Novelty before novels, and all that.

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