By Annie Lowrey
I’ll disagree with Matt here. I hate footnotes.
In non-fiction, I find them acceptable. But in fiction? They’re distracting and aesthetically grating — niggling little barnacles, pimpling the text. Further, it seems to me they’re virtually always unnecessary. If something is integral to an understanding of what’s going on, it can go in a parenthesis or just in the text itself. If it isn’t, or is just due diligence, it can go in an endnote for the reader to peruse when he feels like it.
I make some exceptions for discursive footnotes — the long one in Sabbath’s Theater for instance. But as a general rule, they’re obnoxious.
As for the book at hand: I don’t mind IJ’s endnotes, at least right now. As a gut feeling, I dislike the book’s attempts to disconcert and distract the reader, the “deliberate antagonizing” as Matt put it, though I understand that’s part of the point. (And explains why IJ contains numerous asides better-suited for the endnotes than the endnotes themselves.) But, I like to be absorbed in a book, and it’s odd to have that impulse toyed with.