24 July 2007


Books I really, really, really want to index

Perhaps because most of my indexing work is on books that are rather typical for nonfiction reference books -- technical titles like Measurement, Analysis, and Control Using JMP and resource guides like Dx/Rx: Colorectal Cancer -- I jump for joy when I get something so off the beaten path that I renew my love for this job. For example, I recently completed the index for First Position, a collection of biographies of ballet dancers; more recently, I indexed Sensual Knits and Sensual Crochet, both beautifully photographed books of designs and patterns.

But now, working in the wee hours of the night, I find myself fantasizing about the books that I really, really, really want to index, books that are just asking to be written so that I, Seth Maislin, can be assigned their indexes. So here's my wish list:

Chihuahuas for Dummies
Don't laugh. You probably have no idea just how far-reaching the Dummies series has become since its long-ago inception as a series for computer use. There's Fantasy Football for Dummies, a book about imaginary sports playing; Stretching for Dummies, a book about limbering up, perhaps in advance of reading Sex for Dummies; Guitar for Dummies, Bass Guitar for Dummies, and the upcoming Rock Guitar for Dummies, which I have to believe compete with each other somehow; and Jewish Cooking for Dummies, a book that, dare I say it, would make me feel guilty to own. Nevertheless, let me make myself clear here. Chihuahuas for Dummies is a real book. I want to index the next edition, you see, because I'm dying to see what changes.

10.9 Seconds: The Joey Chestnut Story
(see http://origin.mercurynews.com/valley/ci_6297731 to get the joke) Yes, this book is my own invention, but the fun part about indexing sports books is that they are so completely self-reverential. (Yes, reverential, not referential.) Written by sports geeks for sports geeks, the authors' language captures the awe-hubris-humor combination achieved by fans and record-breakers when it comes to the sport that is most of their life. It doesn't matter what the sport is, either, so I'm all for those esoteric things like Ultimate Frisbee (I was offered such a book once) and so on. I recently indexed the comprehensive Chasing the Hunter's Dream, a directory of hunting opportunities around the world. This book included both descriptions of "dream hunts" -- think lion hunts in Africa -- and an entire section in the back dedicated to recipes, including a few meals for squirrels -- I mean, of squirrels. And I mentioned First Position in my intro, where at times I felt like I was reading an artist's diary.

How to Work My Body: A Manual
There are a number of sex books out there -- including one for Dummies -- and most of them have indexes. I just finished indexing Him and Her, short and photograph-filled manuals of the sexes, along with instructions to make them work. And I do mean "work": the book about men attempts to explain why they tend not to do chores around the house. (Oh come on, you didn't think I'd use an erotic example of "work", did you? :-) These books, produced by the same group of people who made Sensual Crochet, were a joy of sex to index, especially once I realized that most of the anatomy-filled books that I index are about abnormal anatomy: prostate disorders (100 Questions and Answers About Prostate Diseases), gunshot wounds (Criminal Investigation, 2nd edition), and the like. And unlike the traditionally polite sex-instruction book, Him and Her are more about the art than the words -- something that, for eunuchs at least, would make the indexing go much faster.

The user manual to anything only cool people own
I had the honor of indexing the user manual to the Class E series Mercedes-Benz automobile. This full-color production was totally awesome; I spent a lot of time trying to convince myself that reading the manual long before the car's official release was as envy-worthy as owning the car itself. (For many months my friends and family joked that I should paid in cars instead of dollars.) I've indexed the manuals to software applications before, but I have more memories from editing the user guide to a long-since-extinct universal remote control ... and I'm talking back when these things were large control panels. So what other cutting-edge production is taking place? I missed indexing the iPhone manual, but maybe someday I'll get to index the field guide for a nasty-looking military weapon.

Instructions to the 1040 Form
Indexing gets so little press, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to index something that's so popular or high-profile that I can't feel proud. I'll never be a household name, but if I had landed that one magical indexing project with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, my work might have reached every household. They really were looking for someone, at least for a little while. Even the newest Harry Potter book isn't as popular. Which reminds me: is someone out there indexing Rowland's books? If not, there ought to be. The Unauthorized Index of Harry Potter would be a big seller ... despite use of the word index in the title. Move over, back-of-the-book indexing. We're on the cover now.

Okay, I'm starting to drool.

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Oh my gosh, what an awesome post! As the mother (yes, I said mother) of two chihuahuas, I would KILL to index Chihuahuas for dummies! You have completely opened my eyes as to how I should go about getting more work--find what I want to index and then contact the publisher! My previous attempt failed miserably, however, when I contacted the author of an exceptional book on goldfish and offered to work for half price, but I guess he didn't feel his 300+ page, highly technical book needed an index. Too bad for us, his readers.

Awesome blog!
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