Détente by Index: On Earl Sprague’s Invitation to a Subheading

July 26, 2013 | 2 min read


The legendary indexer Earl Sprague’s memoir, Invitation to a Subheading, is to be published this month by the Freelancer Union Press. In it, Sprague lyrically recounts the arc of a brilliant career spanning medical textbooks to presidential memoirs. As if that weren’t thrilling enough, there’s a further enticement to pick up a copy. Sprague’s longtime professional rival, Thor Henderson, agreed to index his hated colleague’s memoir, possibly signaling a détente between the two fiercely competitive lions of the industry. How fitting that their notorious feud end via the healing powers of a well-constructed index, which Indexer’s Weekly proudly presents here in full.

Acknowledgements: family, i.; Index Association of the Americas, ii.; my notable absence from, i.-iv.

Adultery: in Madame Bovary, 189; of wife, 122. See Rival.

Alternate titles: Pointing Towards Bethlehem, 1; Man, First Disobedience of, 19; Index We Trust, 58; In Search of Lost References, 133; A Life Less Indexable, 178.

Amateurs: perils of hiring, 6; inability to distinguish his work from, 37-9.

Art: indexing as, 92; of self-promotion, 1-250.

Battle Cry of Freedom: Yankee bias in indexation of, 218.

Childhood: colicky nature, 13-19; lack of friends, 15; early predilections for harmless drudgery, 20.

Digressions, 2-29, 100-12; 219-34; and evidence of self-indulgence, 255.

Disaster: professional, 21-250; marital, 123; smugly recounted etymology of, 213.

Ebook: see Obsolescence.

Ennui: philosophical condition, 59; produced by reading this memoir, 1-121, 124-250.

Great American Indexing Competition: rules of, 121; selected text, 122; cheating at, 123.

Hendarson: see Henderson.

Henderson: my surname, 8; passive-aggressive misspelling of, 17.

Index finger: evolution of, 95; how one little finger changed the world, 97; representation in art, 99.

Indexers Convention 1998: drinks consumed at, 134; famous brawl, 136; cheap shot landed when I wasn’t looking, 138.

Iran-Contra: plagiarized account of, 90; confusion with Nintendo video game, 94.

Legacy: as first vegan Methodist indexer, 5. See also Napoleon.

Librarians: torrid affairs with, 17, 64, 108.

Lies: see Librarians.

Metaphors: mixed, 212; in service of purple prose, 189.

Names: dropped, 1-10, 12, 13-79, 81, 83-220.

Napoleon: absurd comparison to, 5.

Obsolescence: see Ebook.

Of: use of in indexing, 29; elegance of, 99; mice and men, 212.

Omissions: glaringness thereof, 45-190; failure to take responsibility for, 45-189.

Philosophical speculations: possibility of indexing a one-page book, 1; indexing an index, 144; referring to split personalities, 3, 3.

Profession: dignity of, 4; disgrace to, 44-88.

Publishing Industry: Cozy contacts with, 18; missed deadlines, 178; and backstabbing to beat out more competent indexers, 199.

Puns: passable, 2, 18; belabored, 34; atrocious, 178 n.5.

Rates: exorbitance thereof, 114.

Rival: inferiority to, 198 (see Omissions); cuckolded by, 123.  See Thor.

Software: versus 3×5 cards, 59; overreliance on, 63.

Spawn: doubtful paternity of, 122.

Split Infinitives: 7, 19.

Thor: and Norse myth, 67; indexer of this book, 123; insincere apology to, 145; and wife; 123.

Wife: See Adultery, Rival, Ennui, Thor, Children, and Disaster.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

is a staff writer for The Millions living in Durham, NC. Learn more about Matt at matthewseidel.com.