Friday, May 27, 2005

Well, it's got a good index, at least... 

There's a nice post from Adam Kotsko over at The Weblog on the subject of what makes a good index. He argues that it's the seemingly irrelevant details that help to remind us of particular articles, and that it's therefore good to link to 'elevator buttons' and 'Afghanistan' rather than 'phallus' and 'grace'.

But surely that's not the only reason for linking to such things. A far more convincing reason is that these things are really the most fun parts of the book anyway; they're what keep us involved. After all, once I'd done trying to work out with my friend Graham what the hell Zizek had been saying in his Amnesty lecture last year, all we actually remembered about it was his comments about chocolate laxatives. And I'm sure we weren't alone in that.

If it weren't for the small eccentric details, those of us who get real joy out of reading academic books in our subject (and I'll admit Zizek's not mine) wouldn't have half the fun we do. There's only so much reading of Aquinas you can get through without needing the rescue of a joke about the relative strength of women, wine, kings and truth, after all. And a good index should reflect this.

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