Can I Complain?
How often have you opened a book in the middle and found something interesting, only to get frustrated trying to find the right note? Not often? Well, it happens to me all the time. Most recently: while skimming Eric Gardner’s Unexpected Places, which looks to be a very fine book. But last night, skimming in bed, I had a little fit of frustration.
I was reading around in a section on a little-known temperance play. At one point, Gardner writes:
[W]hat at first glance might seem an apolitical stance is more usefully understood as a sense that temperance is a kind of uber-issue governing all political choices and more.
Which is followed by an endnote number: 41.
Now, this idea about temperance as “uber-issue” made me curious, not least because I occasionally teach a similar play, so I turned to the back of the book, to see what else might be said, and lo! there were no running heads. No top margin reading “Notes to Pages 70-75,” which would have been nice, since the reference I wanted was on page 71. Making matters worse: the header on page 71 gave the chapter title (“Black Indiana”) but no number, while the endnote section used numbers but not titles. So I went back to page 71, flipping to the start of the chapter — all the way back to page 56 — until I saw that “Black Indiana” meant “2,” and then I went to the endnote section again, flipping pages until I found “Chapter 2.” At which point I flipped a few pages forward, and came at last to the actual note.
Way too much work!
Really, books should be designed by people who use them.
OK, end of complaint.