Footnotes in novels.1
Adam Levin is an experimental writer who hates that word — "experimental."
What would you call it, I asked.
"Good?" he replied.
It's generally associated with youth, I said. The I-Climbed-It-Because-It Was-There School of Writing.
"If you mean the readership (for experimental writing), that's accurate. In terms of the writing, I'm not sure. You may be more willing to experiment when you're young — you get an inflated sense of things and want to rebel. But the best writers are the ones who will to change up their (expletive) all the time. You get older and you see the value of telling a story, but I hope I never get to be one of those old men who likes saying, 'Just get to the tale, boy!'"
By Adam Levin, McSweeney's, 256 pages, $22
1 "I'm OK with footnotes, I really like footnotes," Levin said, which was the wrong answer. I don't think my hating them is about my lack of imagination, I replied. They're distracting, they break the flow, they appeal to my distracted nature. Probably exacerbate it. I don't need that. Of course, you use footnotes well. Levin said, "They can be annoying. You're right. There aren't that many footnotes in 'Hot Pink.' Maybe 13 or something? The gesture is asking the reader to do a little more work than they were expecting. So each time out it has to be worth it. It needs to be exceedingly important for me to have a footnote in there. They're a risky move and the payout for putting them in has to be tremendous. The question of whether a writer should do something edgy really boils down to whether they do that edgy thing well. If a writer is doing it to signify they are smarter than the reader, that's not something I want. But if the reader is open to the edgier stuff, it can be great. There are things in some writers' work that I don't understand exactly and it makes me upset. But not because I'm mad. It's because the writing is moving me in a way I don't entirely understand."