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A book that starts with a listing of the cast of characters or (worse) a glossary of some kind makes me immediately suspicious. It seems like an open admission that the author lacks confidence in their own ability to tell the story, in the audience’s ability to follow the story, or both.

It’s similar to movies that start with explanatory on-screen text or voiceover. I mean, I love the Star Wars movies, and I know Lucas was deliberately referencing old serials in the first one, but I feel like Ep. IV would have been a better film without the opening crawl.

  1. @petebrown The exception I can think of is English translations of Russian works. I really appreciate seeing the varieties of their name listed so that I can see they are all the same person. Everyman’s Library does this well for Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

  2. @toddgrotenhuis I hang out with Russians a certain amount, and learning that Alexandra is also Sasha to her friends takes some time and attention. And that’s before you get into patronymics. So yes, I’m grateful for casts of characters in Russian novels. A couple of months ago I read Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, and once again, I was grateful for the list of characters, which I referred to more often than I want to admit while reading them. Again, part of the issue is that most of the characters go by at least two different names.

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