So this is chapter one of a little project I’m working on.  There is some debate as to whether the extensive use of footnotes works to illustrate the layered nature of the project/the way my head works OR to distract the reader/provide an embarrassing echo of David Foster Wallace.  (Tipping the scale toward the latter:  uploading to Google Docs messed with the formatting, so that some of the footnotes wander onto the next page.  Oof.)  I would be glad for opinions on the matter.  Not that anything will come of it anyway.  Part of what I have envisioned is releasing it as an ebook for touchscreens, so that you can touch on a footnote number and get a pop-up of the footnote.


  1. You’ve been snooping.

  2. Cubeland Mystic says

    I have night read it yet but looked at it. I think they would be distracting in ebook format as well as published. If it needs to be in the text go there. Perhaps it needs delayerizing? So delayerize it. However, I am not opposed to them, but consider putting them at the back of the chapter or the back of the book. If eBook offers the ability to bubble them on the screen, I love that stuff. He drove Big Bob to Californian (1). Then when you click on the (1) the bubble pops up and says “Big Bob was the name Percy gave his car. Named after his 8th grade history teacher.” That kind of pop-up I like. If Big Bob turned out to be something more perhaps delayerize. Hope I didn’t demonstrate my keen grasp of the obvious.

    • Matthew Lickona says

      Thanks, Cubeland. Back to the drawing board, I guess. Maybe I’ll get this done in time for Percy’s 100th, in 2016.

      • Jonathan Potter says

        I agree the footnotes could be done more creatively in the eBook or Korrektiv Apps version of the book. But they work in the old-school footnote way, too, as (a) a reflection of the solitary traveler’s duality, (b) a model of how bifurcated and distracted the contemporary reader already is — Lickona is just leading the reader to selected distractions, and (c) an echo of Percy’s footnote-prone method in Lost in the Cosmos.

        • Cubeland Mystic says

          That is probably my problem. I still have not read Percy. My brother I have offended thee, and ask your forgiveness.

          But try to understand, I own the moviegoer and love in the ruins. Every time I start I sense a kindred spirit that has probably written about the things I want to write about. To find out your not original sucks.

          I actually I find the footnotes more interesting so far. I like the thought experiment so far. I could not stop reading. Both the footnotes and the essay/chapter are interesting. Who is the intended audience? Is it newbies like me or old hands like you guys?

  3. Saw your nod from Maud the other day. Fun.

  4. Jonathan Potter says

    Wow. This is masterful, Matthew. I’m stoked! The La Jolla connection is mindbogglingly funny, fun, profound, and makes for a lovely/goofy web connecting you and Percy.

    Don’t you dare fuck with the footnotes. They are perfectly modulated to your purpose — although I agree they should diminish as you transition towards a more straightforward narrative.

  5. The link isn’t working! Help!

  6. I’m sorry I had to say something. Never ever ever ever will I forget the quote ” don’t you dare fuck with the footnotes.”. It’s forever emblazoned in my mind now Matt in reference to you. I feel like that could be the title of your next book.

  7. I like it a lot. Percy’s style has a way of rubbing off on his fans, I find.

  8. Betty Duffy says

    I read it. I love it. But I’m not convinced you shouldn’t fuck with the footnotes. More and more I’m reaching for novels, more in depth writing, in order to have my hand held through less bifurcated and distracted thinking.

    And I have a visceral response to dropping a thought in the middle of a sentence in order to go chasing another one. It makes me feel like less of a person.

  9. I don’t see that the DFW echo has to be embarrassing … as you say, it’s just the way our minds are layered these days. That, and hyperlinks. And like Potter says, Percy is probably a more important precedent anyway.

    And if I didn’t get the point across earlier, I think it’s great stuff, and something surely will come of it if/when you pursue it.

  10. Matthew Lickona says

    Thanks all for reading and for feedback. I’ll barrel on ahead, and mull about fixing as I do.

  11. I freaking love this! What a treat. Thanks for sharing. I want Chapter Two!

    I agree with Jonathan. The footnotes work, work, work–definitely! For all of those reasons.

    But I think you should fuck with them a little. Here are my specific suggestions:

    First, there might be too many. You don’t want to test the reader’s patience. With that in mind, several struck me as expendable. Their contents didn’t add much to my understanding, they felt superfluous, redundant or distracting, and/or they seemed more like a side note in your own mind, a “note to self” of something you once came across, rather than something that would add value to the story you are trying to tell. These were: 2, 11, 12. I would nix those.

    I was on the fence about 25. That one felt a bit tedious, but the Robocop line was funny, so that saves it. Leave it in.

    9 and 14 are also borderline. You could get rid of them, or leave them in.

    Second, now granted I don’t know the whole scope of the story or where this is all going, but my first impression was that some of them felt too important to be footnoted. I thought that they should be included in the main thread. For example, the stuff in 4 and 6 reminded me of some of my favorite parts from Swimming with Scapulars, which came somewhere toward the end, when you, sorry – he, the “narrator,” tells us that sometimes he has doubts and wonders if this whole belief thing is just a way to infuse some drama into an otherwise typical suburban life. That struck me right here (I am pointing at my solar plexus), no, wait, here (I am pointing at my brain). So I’m wondering why, here, you are shunting some of the more personal stuff into the footnotes (I am jabbing one finger at the screen). Again, I don’t know what you are going for, but to me it feels like some stuff is simply too vital (and interesting) to be footnoted. As a reader, I want to be able to trust that the footnotes will contain additional information that will enrich my reading experience, not critical information that, if missed, will impoverish my experience.

    So, footnotes that I think should be removed and incorporated into the main thread: 4, 6, 7, 13, 26.

    I am on the fence about 15 and 19. Either they should remain in the footnotes or should be incorporated into the main thread.

    Either way, the content of 15 and 16 could probably be combined, again just to make it less tedious. You don’t want to require too much “back and forth” on the part of the reader.

    I would avoid putting stuff in the footnotes just for the sake of being cute. There was one that said simply , “No.” It was humorous, but also annoying, because every footnote takes me out of the immediate flow. I’m willing to go along with it if there seems to be a good reason for it, but I don’t want to feel like the writer is just jerking me around.

    One last thing: There was a paragraph about La Jolla (the La Jolla stuff, by the way, is really, really good and gets delightfully complex and layered and funny!) that starts “How is my city…” I have a note here telling myself to tell you that your use of “you” here confused me a bit. Are you saying “you” as in “one” or does your “you” really mean “I”? I wasn’t sure if there was something of a personal confession going on here in the spirit of footnotes 4 and 6 or if this was more of a general observation about the tendencies of people.

    For all of the footnotes I didn’t mention, I thought they worked brilliantly as footnotes. Don’t you dare fuck with them.

    Footnote to your footnote 3: I recently binged on Mary Karr, reading all three of her memoirs back-to-back. I caught several instances when she used the same metaphor or phrasing in different books, and caught myself thinking, “She already used that comparison! Couldn’t she think of something new? Can’t she be more original?” It wasn’t fair and surely it wouldn’t have happened if I had allowed myself more time between them. I just couldn’t stop myself. For three weeks I was a Karr junkie.

    Thanks again for sharing. It was super fun to read this.

  12. I agree with Ellen both in general and in most of the particulars.

    I would add that what pleases me about the footnotes is that I feel that I’m reading a narrative at two levels, the footnotes being the more personal. But that isn’t always what you’re doing with the footnotes, and that makes me feel like I’m getting jerked around a bit, or that you’re being too clever by half. I think the footnotes should almost stand alone as a separate narrative.

    And maybe that idea is befucked. (h/t JOB)

  13. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

    Ellen and Peacock are right.

    Ellen: Funny thing — I listened to the audiobook of Lit, read by Karr herself, a few weeks ago. Wonder if that was around the time of your Karr binge. And around 1:00 A.M. yesterday, I recommended her poetry to JOB, who said he has read some of her prose.

    And circling back to M-Lick’s draft — Karr had a David Foster Wallace konnektion!

  14. I really like DFW and his use of footnotes is central to how his writing comes across. And, of course, I am a big fan of yours. I can’t say I am a fan of these footnotes. I am reading this on a Kindle and so I am able to click on the number to see each note, but that is not how I read text that is footnote-heavy. I read it straight through and then skim the footnotes, usually. These feel like they are a little too disconnected from one another to form a proper meta-narrative for your story but are also abundant enough that it’s clear you are having some fun with the form. I think the inability to fix them at a consistent location relative to the text itself is a problem with this approach. It requires a lot of clicking around in an electronic format, while in a print medium it would probably work better because you can just glance down and read each one.

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