Creative Footnotes/Annotations

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Creative Footnotes/Annotations

joulukuu 24, 2020, 12:35pm

Hi everyone!

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov and House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski are two of my favorite books of all time and I'm having a really hard time finding more books with a similar format. In these two books, the author develops a story in the footnotes/annotations of a larger text, and it's incredibly inventive and well done.

Please, if you can think of a book in which the author plays with the structure of the text itself, perhaps by getting creative with its footnotes or annotations or by playing with the shape of the story, let me know! So far, I've only managed to find S. by J.J. Abrams (AKA Ship of Theseus) and that book wasn't very good (in my opinion).

Recommendations for short stories that fit the same format, such as "STET" by Sarah Gailey, are welcome too!

The book itself can be in any genre, preferably written for an adult audience. However, I am not very interested in romance so I'd rather not receive recommendations for books that have a largely romantic plot/subplot.

Thank you so much in advance!

joulukuu 24, 2020, 1:08pm

This may not be exactly what you're looking for, but Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is copiously footnoted with "academic" references that accomplish several things, in particular doing a great deal of world-building and also offering clues to what is happening in the text itself. They're also frequently quite slyly funny.

joulukuu 24, 2020, 1:11pm

There's Mark Dunn's Ibid, which is a novel made entirely of footnotes.

joulukuu 24, 2020, 1:21pm

Tagmash here:,+footnotes

Bartleby & Co. is footnotes to a non-existent text.
Flann O’Brien likes comic footnotes, but not on the same kind of scale as Pale fire.

joulukuu 24, 2020, 1:39pm

The Athenian Murders, by José Carlos Somoza is brilliant. There's the main text, which is being translated, and a second plot is happening in the translator's footnotes.

joulukuu 24, 2020, 2:26pm

I haven't read it, but Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace is supposed to be famous for this sort of thing.

joulukuu 24, 2020, 2:32pm

The grandaddy of them all...

Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

joulukuu 24, 2020, 2:47pm

Just finished City of Saints and Madmen

"A footnote on the purpose of these footnotes: This text is rich with footnotes to avoid inflicting upon you, the idle tourist, so much knowledge that, bloated with it, you can no longer proceed to the delights of the city with your customary mindless abandon."

joulukuu 24, 2020, 2:47pm

I'm assuming Borges doesn't need to be suggested?

The snarky footnotes by the demon in The Amulet of Samarkand are great fun, though not central to the story.

I wanted to like The Athenian Murders but was never really convinced by either of the stories or the philosophical musings. I found something like Pelevin's Helmet of Horror far more effective.

The fictional manuscript is a well-established technique, if this is included in the scope of your question. You could start with some early-ish examples of this, such as Potocki's Saragossa Manuscript or Hofmann's Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr.

I've been keeping a list of books that radically play with the material aspects of a text. I haven't read most of them, but some of the titles might be of interest:

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 24, 2020, 3:41pm

I don't know why I can't read lately -- I wrote here about how Pale Fire suits your question exactly. So exactly it turns out, that it is in the question. The Spellman Files (see below) not so much.

A recent light novel with footnotes is The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz, a comic novel about a family of private investigators. The footnotes are fun, but not radically different than just using footnotes. The same is true of the sequels.

joulukuu 24, 2020, 3:36pm

A non-fiction book which has great fun with footnotes is On the Shoulders of Giants: a Shandean Postscript by Robert K. Merton. It is an investigation into the origin and use of the phrase "I have stood on the shoulders of giants" that is also a parody of such an investigation.

joulukuu 25, 2020, 1:01pm

Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle. (It's been published as a single large omnibus and as 4 volumes.)

The main text is about a female mercenary in Europe; the footnotes are by an historian researching her - who points out that this or that is anachronistic, off by a little, then gets more and more exclamatory because something *deeply* weird is obviously going on in the story that doesn't line up with known history...

joulukuu 26, 2020, 11:52am

>9 spiphany: I've actually never read Borges. Is there a specific work of his that you would recommend?
And thanks for your other suggestions, they seem really great!

joulukuu 26, 2020, 11:54am

>4 thorold: Ooh Bartleby & Co. seems like just what I've been looking for. Thank you!

joulukuu 26, 2020, 11:56am

>7 Crypto-Willobie: Thank you! Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman seems like a beautiful mess and I already love it.

joulukuu 26, 2020, 11:57am

>8 SandraArdnas: This is perfect, thanks!

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 29, 10:47am

Reif Larsen did some things with footnotes in The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet

tammikuu 28, 7:16pm

>11 Capybara_99:

Thanks for the recommendation of On the shoulder of giants!

helmikuu 18, 1:36pm

This book doesn't have footnotes but it is an inventive way of working with language - Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn - slowly stops using certain letters in the story and in the writing of it.

helmikuu 18, 8:12pm

An amusing labyrinth of footnotes in The Dissertation by R.M. Koster.