Walt writes that he is done with C&I Volume 5. If youâ€™re a reader of Cites & Insights, youâ€™ve probably already downloaded and printed out the latest issue, as have I (though I havenâ€™t read it all yet). I was particularly delighted, however, to be able to download and print out the index [.pdf] to the whole volume.
I love indexes (or indices, if you prefer). So far as I know, the C&I index is the first one in which I appear, which gives it a certain added appeal, but I like pretty much any old index.
For one thing, an index is kind of a paper version of a tag cloud. Go pull a biography off the shelf and flip through the index. Chances are that some terms will have several lines of pages listed after them, while some will have only one or two. Some will also have sub-index terms underneath, rather like the sub-subjects in the OPAC tag cloud that everyoneâ€™s been talking about. Iâ€™ve also always thought that a good index reads rather like a bit of found poetry.
And then, of course, thereâ€™s what I have always considered to be the greatest literary reference to indices: Chapter 44 of Kurt Vonnegutâ€™s Catâ€™s Cradle, called â€œNever Index Your Own Book.â€
â€œItâ€™s a revealing thing, an authorâ€™s index of his own work,â€ she informed me. â€œItâ€™s a shameless exhibitionâ€”to the trained eye.â€
â€œShe can read character from an index,â€ said her husband.
â€œOh? I said. â€œWhat can you tell about Philip Castle?â€
She smiled faintly. â€œThingâ€™s Iâ€™d better not tell strangers.â€
Want to know what? Well, as we say in my readersâ€™ advisory class, if you want to find out, youâ€™ll have to read the book.
Technical notes for this entry: Iâ€™m trying Blogger for Word for the first time. Weâ€™ll see how it works. [Update: I wrote this in Word, but Iâ€™m going to be posting via Blogger, since so far as I can see, Blogger for Word is not for Mac. Furthermore, I was unable to cut and paste from Word to Blogger, so I had to cut and paste to Text Edit, then cut and paste from there to Blogger, then put in all the links again. Poopy.] I consulted several books in the course of writing this entryâ€”a dictionary, because I was curious about whether there was a preferred plural form for the word index (not really, though indexes was listed first in The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991), which was what happened to be closest), and a copy of Catâ€™s Cradle, because I couldnâ€™t remember the exact title of the chapter, and because I wanted to use a quotation. I know there are many wonderful online dictionaries, both free and fee, plus of course that handy Google operator, define: X, but I never think to use them. It did occur to me to try out Google Book Search to see if Catâ€™s Cradle had been scanned, which it doesnâ€™t seem to have been, though there are plenty of books that reference it. A search for â€œnever index your own book,â€ however, did turn up this little gem, which Iâ€™d love to read. Google, oh, Google, why do you not synch yourselves with Find in a Library?