Best Quote Ever

Fossicking through my many, many, many boxes of books I found this quote marked:

I once asked a young dissertation writer whether her suddenly grayed hair was due to ill health or personal tragedy; she answered: “It was the footnotes”.

—Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women’s Writing

Those words bring back my years of PhD thesis research, writing, turning it into a book, and the postdoctoral fellowship that followed it. Not to mention the mighty labours on Daughters of Earth. Footnotes, bloody, buggery footnotes! A pleasure to read and chase amongst; a total pain in the arse to get right. And don’t get me started on bibliographies and indexing. Aaarggh!

So very, very glad I never have to do any of that stuff ever again!

And, yes, I did go prematurely grey.


  1. claire on #

    wow. the universe IS about convergences. it’s 4:30 am and i’m sitting here printing out my massive creative thesis (it’s a novel) which is due, in all its properly formatted glory, on friday. i’ve spent all week shuttling back and forth from home to school with sample pages. there’s an entire department at the university, staffed by about three people, dedicated entirely to checking thesis formatting. my slow-ass printer will take, no joke, another three hours or so to finish. i am soooo hating life right now.

  2. Jason Erik Lundberg on #

    Ha! Ah, the joy and frustration of footnotes. That quote is awesome.

  3. Jenny D on #

    That really is an adorable quotation; thanks … I am afraid to say, though, that I LOVE doing footnotes! Guess that’s why I’m primarily an academic rather than a novelist … my footnotes are all made up in a lovely armature before I’ve even really written the text properly, and I’m always amazed when people give me things to read with sketchy footnotes, making them all perfect is the most enjoyable form of productive procrastination I’ve ever encountered … If there is an autopsy after I die the pathologist will find various rules from the Chicago Manual of Style engraved on my heart …

  4. Justine on #

    Claire: Congratulations on the almost completeness of your degree! Woo hoo! But, yes the formatting stage of the thesis is the very pits of hell. Ugh. Ack. Erk. But you will survive.

    Jason: Yup. Couldn’t resist.

    Jenny D: I’m so glad some one loves doing them, because they are things of great beauty. Like I said: I adore reading them and chasing from one to another. Footnote hunts are one of my very favourite things. But doing them? I guess I don’t have the dotting the i, crossing the t gene. Which is why I left academia to become a novelist. The Chicago style manual is most assuredly not engraved on my heart, it’s probably covered in the lyrics of every Elvis song. Yup your engraved heart is way cooler than mine.

  5. rjurik on #

    Hi Justine. I left my footnotes until the very end of my thesis – and let me tell you, when you’re searching books with just a little note that say “Delany, p45, difference and race etc cross reference Word for World and Russ 77…” well – there you have the genesis of “wild eyed Rjurik” (:

  6. Justine on #

    Hey Rjurik, Lovely to see you posting here and congrats on your Aurealis nomination. Very, very cool!

    Oh, yeah, I did the same thing despite being warned by many, many people not to leave them till the end. How much was that? Not even a skerrick. In my turn I, too, have warned people who have similarly ignored me. I guess we all just need to learn for ourselves. Aaargghh!!

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