Q: Where did you come up with the idea for the footnotes? And where was the first one used?
In college, I often felt like most of the really interesting stuff in academic nonfiction was in the footnotes, because that’s where the author’s voice came through.
Also, I’d read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, which contains a lot of endnotes, and I loved them, because:
1. They can function as a kind of competing narrative that comments upon and—for lack of a better word—problematizes the central narrative.
2. Also, sometimes exceptionally intelligent people (like David Foster Wallace or Colin or E. Lockhart’s Ruby Oliver) feel this need to qualify and refine and analyze everything they say, because they feel this urge to be both understood and intellectually precise. They want to be both very clear and very accurate.
Footnotes can serve as a way of attempting to achieve that precision and clarity. But I think that at least on some levels, precision and clarity are in competition with each other.* As discussed in the novel, human memory is not in the accuracy business; it’s in the narrative business. Colin eventually starts to feel that when it comes to being understood, telling stories empathetically works best.
* Like, eventually footnotes and endnotes and footnotes-within- footnotes and so on in the ceaseless attempt to be clear in precisely what you are trying to say leads to the reader being confused and annoyed and altogether less engaged.