Saturday, 18 July 2009

Never a book again!

There are recurrent moments in my professional life when I wish I did something else instead. Every now and then I publish a book, and each time I have to compile an index. There is software available for indexing, and every publisher warns against using it. Quite right. An indexing software doesn't know that "princess" can sometimes be a literary term, but not all princesses should otherwise be in the index. It cannot figure out that when I am discussing reading and writing, the leading word should be literacy, nor that "masculine" and "feminine" are aspects of "gender", while mothers and fathers are parents in the context. It cannot conceive of metamorphosis being a title as well as a notion. And it surely cannot distinguish between C S Lewis and Lewis Carroll. Anyway, publishers require that authors compile indices manually. They don't do it themselves because it is incredibly time-consuming and would cost them a fortune. Once I was so totally busy at the time when indexing was requested (and as anyone who has published a book knows, proofs and indices always arrive when you least want them, for instance when grandchildren are visiting, and I have a pile of theses to mark) that I asked the publisher to do it and deduce the costs from my royalties. This was the most useless index I've seen.

Therefore, every time this happens I swear solemnly to never, never ever write another book.


Anonymous said...



Julia said...

And then you tell me you miss me because I used to help with the indexes.