October 07, 2004

Free Ianthe Broome!

Later when she was drinking her tea Mervyn came into the room with a card in his hand.
Ianthe realised from his triumphant expression that he had caught her out in a mistake and waited with resignation to hear what it was.
'Government in Zazzau,' he declared. 'The place of publication is London, not Oxford. It was published by the Oxford University Press for the International African Institute--do you see?' From behind his back he now produced the book itself, open at the title page.
'Of course--how stupid of me. I'm so sorry, I'm afraid I do make mistakes sometimes.'
'But there is no need to make that kind of mistake,' he said rather obscurely and left the room with a springy step.

Barbara Pym, An Unsuitable Attachment

In comments here Jeff Johnson suggests that we start a movement to end the use of publisher and city of publication in book citations. Being a dedicated philosophical moderate, I wouldn't go that far--you probably need to know the publisher if you want to hassle your library to order the book. But cities, definitely. The whole practice has the air of a former time when, if you wanted the book, you had to go to the city and hunt up the damn printer yourself; and as Jeff points out, frequently there's more than one city on the title page, and who knows what to put on? Vive la revolution! I of course am not going to act on this in the slightest until (and unless) I get tenure somewhere.

(Aside: The use of "now" in a past tense sentence in Pym's third paragraph is interesting. It seems a lot like free indirect discourse; though probably sequence of tenses in narration has been pretty well studied.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at October 7, 2004 07:29 AM