Alphabetizing 102 | Newberry

Alphabetizing 102

Looking around for a few more literary anniversaries to note in 2018 before it’s over, I see that this year marked the fiftieth anniversary of a book called Colonel Sun. A first-person novel narrated by its author, Robert Markham, it was the first authorized James Bond novel published after the death of Bond creator Ian Fleming. It was MEANT to be the start of a whole new run of James Bond novels. It sold very well, but purists missed Ian Fleming from the text. And, anyhow, Robert Markham, who was really Kingsley Amis, had other things to do.

Kingsley Amis’s other novels appear in Literature at the Book Fair, alphabetized under A. Colonel Sun, however, appears in Mystery, alphabetized under M. We do things that way to avoid confusion, and the extra effort taken by all those customers who will feel it necessary to take a book by an M author out of the A section. See, we’re only thinking of you.

In any case, we thus also pay tribute to the change in rules instituted in U.S. libraries some forty years ago this year, which among other things decreed that libraries could put the works of Samuel L. Clemens under the name he used on the cover: Mark Twain. The rule previously had stressed truth and reality, and in theory when you looked up Twain, Mark in a library catalogue, you were supposed to be directed “see Clemens, Samuel Langhorne”. Someone decided, around 1978, that a few steps and not a little cussing could be avoided if authors were shelved and catalogued under their best known names. This applies primarily to authors best known by one pseudonym; people who used more than one take a different set of rules. (Just for the record, Kingsley Amis may well have set a kind of record for all time: he wrote three James Bond books, each under a different name.)

So by and large, at the Book Fair, when we alphabetize by author, we alphabetize by the name on the cover of the book. Usually. (You didn’t really think it was going to be that easy, did you?)

It’s not so much that we assume everyone who comes to the Book Fair know that Boz is Charles Dickens. We simply assume anybody who’s looking for a book by Boz does. People who wrote their first novels under a pseudonym but went on later to fess up and publish the same book under their official name get the same treatment.

The only time this causes us trouble are the books which want to eat their cake and have it, too. An author decides to admit to having written books under another name, and the publisher puts out a new edition meant to appeal to fans of the author as well as those fans who loved the book before they knew who wrote it and want more books by the pseudonym. So when the book says, right there on the cover, “Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine”, does it go with R or V?

If the publisher has gone ahead and put both names on the cover, we go with the one we assume is more famous. Do we still have customers who hunt for mysteries by Ailsa Craig? Are you going to look for those under C, or where we usually put them, in M? (Especially when the cover says “Charlotte MacLeod, writing as Ailsa Craig.”) The publishers tend to be very helpful about which name to prefer. There are no books, so far as I know, where the cover says “Barbara Vine, writing as Ruth Rendell” or “A.A.Fair, writing as Erle Stanley Gardner.”

This works well, more often than not, because if someone asks, our volunteers are generally savvy enough to say “Oh, well, you know Mary Westmacott is really Agatha Christie, right?” It’s all one with the Newberry’s general educational strategy.

(For those who want to look them up, Kingsley Amis’s three books about James Bond were the novel, Colonel Sun by Robert Markham, the humorous evaluation, Book of Bond by Lt. Col. William Tanner, and the literary evaluation, James Bond Dossier by Kingsley Amis. Few authors in our Literature category have been so open about what they read in their free time.)

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