I usually wake up to Radio 4’s Today programme. All too often as with most news it is all doom, gloom and tragedy. However, yesterday morning I surfaced just before the brief item about the launch of the singer Morrissey’s autobiography and my ears pricked up when they mentioned it was published without an index. There are many other reasons that this book is newsworthy:
- Penguin has published it as a ‘Classic’ along with the ancient writers, Louisa May Alcott and the rest – so bold because while there are those fans who claim his music as having greatness the quality of his writing was less certain
- There are no chapters – so maybe it is more fiction than non-fiction?
- The opening paragraph goes on a bit over four and half pages
- There’s masses of name dropping and he says what he thinks about an awful lot of people
- He’s written about relationships which interested his fans for many years.
But as an indexer I have to say it was a brave choice on someone’s part to leave out the index altogether. Of course, it means people have to read the whole thing to pick out nuggets about other celebrities and whatever else he has written about so getting information out as ‘news’ took longer than it should, but really, is leaving it out serving the audience in the longer term? As with Mortimer Wheeler and his teachers and contemporaries in my previous blog, it is those very celebrities and people he has worked with, had relationships of any kind with, the songs he’s written, and the music industry players who have affected him, who will be sought after by readers in the future. Valuable information may be easily missed by people who don’t have the time or inclination to read the book to extract every scrap that could so easily have been done by an indexer.
[Edit May 2014] Here’s a fan’s index that can be searched online by keyword. It’s not an analytical index in the true sense, but a labour of love that might be useful. Unfortunately you can’t print it out either.
Hi there, I am an indexer and I just picked up Morrissey’s book for fun. I too was disappointed that it didn’t have an index, for just the reasons you state. Of course, people are going to want to look things up and see where he dished about so-and-so. And without any chapter breaks he’s made it very hard indeed to re-navigate the text. However, the indexer in me is also wondering just how I would index such a book. I am enjoying it very much, but its free-flowing structure would pose some challenges!
Thanks Devon, I haven’t read the book but I’d think that it should be possible to pick the bones of his life out of it and work on themes such as relationships, school life, as well as the names and places that he mentions. Maybe if I find I have time on my hands I’ll have a go! It might make a good discussion piece for training workshops for indexers if it ‘breaks the mould’ on typical biographical writing.