Indexes and Indexers in Fiction

Ballard, J. G. War fever. London : Collins, 1990. ISBN: 0002237709.

The index itself could be considered fiction. See information about this index in The Indexer, volume 17, issue 4, page 250.

Balzac, Honoré de La comédie humaine

See information about this index in The Indexer, volume 16, issue 4, page 246.

Bradbury, Malcolm My strange quest for Mensonge : structuralisms hidden hero. London : A. Deutsch, 1987. ISBN: 0233980202.

See information about this index in The Indexer, volume 16, issue 3, page 194. and volume 16, issue 4, page 248.

Card, Orson Scott “The Originist”

It was originally published in Foundation’s Friends (ed. by Martin Harry Greenberg, 1989. ISBN 0312931743). It is also in Maps in a Mirror (Orson Scott Card, 1990. ISBN 0312850476) a huge hardcopy compilation of Card’s works, and in Flux (a paperback version of one section of Maps in a Mirror).

In “The Originist”, the main character’s wife is an indexer in the Foundation library, and the fact that she is an indexer does not come into play until near the end of the story, but her work turns out to be crucial to the research her husband is doing. The story is excellent reading, and the environment in which the indexer works is very inspiring.


Card, Orson Scott “Homecoming” trilogy of novels: The Memory of Earth (1992, ISBN 0312852797 or 0312930364), The Call of Earth (1993, ISBN 009926191X or 0099260115), and The Ships of Earth (1994, ISBN 0312856598).

One of the key plot elements involves the theft and use of the Index to the Oversoul. The Oversoul is the omniscient computer which has guided human development on the planet Harmony for millions of years. Parts of the Index [i.e., directory] to the Oversoul are lost, and the Oversoul realizes that significant parts of its memory have been lost through the ages – inaccessible without the Index.

Carroll, Lewis Sylvie and Bruno

See information about this index in The Indexer, volume 7, issue 2, page 55 and volume 18, issue 2, page 110 and issue 20, volume 1, pages 11-13.

Crewe, Candida Mad about Bees Heinemann, 1991.

Defoe, Daniel Memoirs of a cavalier. London, Oxford University Press, 1972. ISBN: 0192553611 and 0192553631.

See information about this index in The Indexer, volume 16, issue 4, page 245.

Doyle, Arthur Conan, Sir Sherlock Holmes and the Creeping Man, The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire, A Scandal in Bohemia, A Case of Identity, and The Case of the Empty House.

In these stories, Sherlock Holmes makes use of a thorough personal index. Take a look…

“Make a long arm, Watson, and see what V has to say.” I leaned back and took down the great index volume to which he referred. Holmes balanced it on his knee, and his eyes moved slowly and lovingly over the record of old cases, mixed with the accumulated information of a lifetime. “Voyage of the Gloria Scott,” he read. “That was a bad business… Victor Lynch, the forger. Venomous lizard or gila. Remarkable case, that! Vittoria, the circus belle. Vanderbilt and the Yeggman. Vipers. Vigor, the Hammersmith wonder. Hullo! Hullo! Good old index. You can’t beat it. Listen to this, Watson. Vampirism in Hungary. And again, Vampires in Transylvania.” Excerpt from The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire

Ellmann, Lucy Sweet Desserts. Viking Penguin, 1989. ISBN 0670827118.

Another example of an author-written “index”. This one doesn’t really index the book—rather, it is part of the text, expanding the characters and the humour. It’s a story of two sisters, written by one. Some examples of entries: Boyfriends, Franny’s hand-me-down. see less of and Cat, unforeseeable responsibilities relating to ownership of a and Divorce, cut your losses and go to Las Vegas. See information about this index in The Indexer, volume 16, issue 3, page 194 and volume 16, issue 4, page 248.

Franken, Al Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot and other observations. New York : Delacorte Press, 1996.

Franken wrote this entire index himself. It is totally inaccurate and hysterical. Sample entries? Dirigible, Limbaugh size of and Doughnuts, Limbaugh’s consumption of.

Gaarder, Jostein Sophie’s world. London : Phoenix, 1995 and 1991. ISBN: 1857993284.

This is a compilation of lectures on the history of philosophy linked by a narrative about a young girl, and marketed as a novel. It has an index that deals only with the philosophical content, not to the fictional—and no note explaining this discrimination.

Graves, Michael A. R. Thomas Norton : the Parliament man. Oxford, UK ; Cambridge, Mass. : Blackwell Publishers, 1994. ISBN 0631167994.

This biography of Norton, a 16th Century English author and legislator, does mention his involvement in indexing, classifying, and cataloging.

James, Clive Brilliant creatures. London : J. Cape, 1983. ISBN: 0224021222.

See information about this index in The Indexer, volume 13, issue 4, page 277 and volume 16, issue 4, pages 244, 246.

James, P.D. Death of an Expert Witness. New York : Scribner, 1977. ISBN 0684152673.

The villain chooses the blackmail victims by postcoordination of their psychological symptoms as indexed on edge-notched cards.

Kaminsky, Stuart Blood and Rubles Wheeler Publishing, 1996. ISBN 1568953291 and 0804112886.

Emil Karpov, the character with no emotions, is looking for one Igor Kuzen. Karpov has kept notebooks detailing every unfinished case he ever worked on in hopes of finally nailing the ones who got away. He has bookshelves lined with these notebooks.  “…He continued his search. There were Igor Kuzens listed in the directory, and the MVD computer system had come up with a probable Igor Kuzen, a medicine hijacker, but he was in prison. The name had touched a memory in Karpov. He had seen it somewhere, written it somewhere, and now he was methodically going through his cross-index in search of a reference. All names listed in his books of notes were cross-indexed. He couldn’t find it.  … “Spelling,” he said aloud, flipping through the index volume where each entry was clearly printed in his own precise hand. He was now going through the Ts, and that was where he found it. Igor Tuzen. A single reference. July 1986. Questioned in relation to the beating and death of a woman who lived in the apartment next to his. The man had identified himself as a physicist…”

Nabokov, Vladimir Pale fire. New York : Putnam, 1962.

This book is not about an indexer, but it does include a “joke” index. See information about this index in The Indexer, volume 7, issue 2, page 55 and volume 12, issue 4, page 200.

Ormesson, Jean d’ La gloire de l’Empire. Paris : Gallimard 1971.

See information about this index in The Indexer, volume 8, issue 2, page 118.

Proust, Marcel A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. [S.l.] : Gallimard, 1954.

See information about this index in The Indexer, volume 7, issue 3, page 133 and volume 10, issue 3, page 159 and volume 16, issue 4, page 245-246.

Pym, Barbara No Fond Return of Love. Portway, Bath, [Eng.] : C. Chivers, 1961. ISBN 0855949309.

Many of Pym’s works include indexers.

Renault, Mary The lion in the gateway. 1964

See information about this index in The Indexer, volume 16, issue 4, page 246.

Scott, Walter, Sir Waverley novels. Portrait Edition (1913) and A&C Black editions (1886-7).

See information about this index in The Indexer, volume 8, issue 3, pages 153-9 and volume 10, issue 4, page 177 and volume 16, issue 4, page 245.

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Lord of the Rings. ISBN 0395193958.

The index in this text has a long and somewhat elusive history. Here’s what scholars know…  In a biography by Humphrey Carpenter (originally published: London : Allen & Unwin, 1977. ISBN 0261102451 (pbk).), we read that for the first edition “He had abandoned any hope of making an index of names, having found that the job would take too long.” Carpenter’s book of Tolkien’s letters (originally published: London : Allen & Unwin, 1981. ISBN 0044406649 (pbk).) mentions a revision for a second edition that was to thwart the pirated paperback edition in the U.S. “I am hoping that alteration of the introductions, considerable modifications of the appendices and the inclusion of an index may prove sufficient for the purpose.” From the introduction in the revised edition of this text (The Fellowship of the Ring, Houghton Mifflin, 1982. ISBN 0395193958), we see this note: “this edition offers this Foreword, an addition to the Prologue, some notes, and an index of the names of persons and places. This index is in intention complete in names but not in references, since for the present purpose it has been necessary to reduce its bulk. A complete index, making full use of the material prepared for me by Mrs. N. Smith, belongs rather to the accessory volume.” The “accessory volume” he refers to did not at that point exist.

For more information about this index in The Indexer, volume 7, issue 2, page 55.

Trollope, Anthony“The Spotted Dog” in An Editor’s Tales.

First published in St Paul’s Magazine, then in book form in 1870; reissued by Penguin, 1993 (pages 235-328).

Vonnegut, Kurt Cat’s Cradle. New York : Delacorte Press, 1963. ISBN 0385281269.

In this book, the indexer makes a comment that you can tell a lot about a person by how they index a book.

Vonnegut, Kurt Jailbird. Cape edition (1979), and Granada edition (1981).

See information about this index in The Indexer, volume 12, issue 2, page 109 and volume 12, issue 4, page 222 and volume 16, issue 4, page 246.

Thanks to all who have helped us compile the above list of fictional works that feature or include indexers. (With special thanks to Hazel Bell.)