Are You Receiving Me? — The Annotated Boris (Day 2)
By Mike Faloon
Day 2, part 1:
This from Norb:
Mike: You're a saint. I think the upper case "I" was just a typo -- autocorrect forced me to go back and change all the upper case I's to lower case i's one by one. However, my rule is that, if the "I" in question is part of me quoting someone else, then it's upper case, because it's them saying the "I," which is different than me saying the "i." I just do it because i like how the dot looks. Huzzah!
This from me:
The purpose of a book such as The Annotated Boris is to clarify the underlying meanings, remove doubt as to what was intended with the various lyrical offerings of Boris the Sprinkler. I’d just like to point out that I...
a) managed to come away with a misunderstanding, however brief,
b) managed to pull off said feat on the back of the title page
c) managed to accomplish a and b on the basis of a typo!
Day 2, part 2:
We were at our neighbor’s yesterday. Their daughter asked if she could “watch one TV.” This struck me as a new way of asking to watch television, thinking of tube time in specific units. She’s used to watching shows on DVD, one episode at a time. It is in that spirit of digital age “quantitative thinking is go!” that I focus on the footnotes in The Annotated Boris.
There are 982 footnotes in The Annotated Boris. When I first saw a draft of the book a few months ago I was hoping that the need could be found for 18 additional footnotes. The prospect of a mini “1000” at the base of the page was pretty cool. Kind of like watching my car’s odometer flick to 150,000 a couple months ago—certain numbers in certain contexts are, to my mind, cool.
And it’s on that basis alone—the accumulation of 982 footnotes that I could declare Rev. Norb the King of the Footnote. Most people would argue that this title should be bestowed upon David Foster Wallace. I’ve never finished a David Foster Wallace book. I read bits of Consider the Lobster but couldn’t finish it. I liked it fine but another, newer book came along and I’ve yet to return to The Lobster. Wallace’s essays were fine and his use of the footnote impressive but at no point did he depose the previous King of the Footnote, Nicholson Baker. A number of pages in Baker’s book The Mezzanine are more footnote that body text — check out p. 27, for example. It could be taken as a parlor trick—That lengthy footnote looks cool! Such lengthy footnotes are certainly not easy to replicate! What’s the purpose again?—but I think it worked to pretty great effect.
One gripe, however, and it’s a gripe I wasn’t aware of until diving into The Annotated Boris. It’s this: Baker resets the footnote count on each page. As a result of this seemingly innocuous decision the book’s first footnote, on page three, is labeled “1,” and the book’s second footnote, on page four — about watching a straw rise in a can of soda — is also labeled “1.” Norb, on the other hand, yields to the quantitative fun — makes the wiser choice — and lets the footnote count accumulate.
What’s the point of having the all footnotes if you don’t keep track of them for the reader? Surely the sheer number of footnotes in The Mezzanine was intended as part of the book’s appeal, why not keep a running tally? Someone must have kept track, either Baker or his editor, but they kept the results to themselves. So it’s not just the total number of footnotes that moves Norb to the top of the AP and UPI “King of Footnotes” polls. That is but one factor. The other is simply keeping track. And this is the next reason I highly recommend The Annotated Boris.