Peter Canellos, The Boston Globe’s Washington bureau chief, analyzes the inclusion of names in the index of Bill Clinton’s autobiography My Life in a column I hope is not meant to be serious. Apparently, the names of people just casually mentioned in the book are not included in the index, which is throwing off Washington society. Canellos also gripes that some of the page numbers don’t line up.
I learned from back-of-the-book indexers (yes, folks, there are people who index books and other materials for a career) that page numbers often change after the index is complete and it’s common for the publisher to forget to make the appropriate changes to the index. Also, there are many rules for what goes into the index. People and topics that are casually mentioned but not essential to the work are often omitted.
Canellos writes, “The 38-page index isn’t complete. It isn’t even accurate. And thus the one thing that made the book a “Washington read” — the chance to learn who was or wasn’t included — was lost like an invitation that got caught in the mail.”