Against Humiliation

The time it takes to edit and design and get writing into print might shock you. I’m at the end of that cycle right now with the summer issue (the theme is “Reinvention”; the issue includes first fiction by Bart Skarzynski—whose first essay we also published—an essay review on wrongful-conviction literature by Steve Weinberg, more fiction by Rose Whitmore, Daniel A. Hoyt and Leslie Parry, nonfiction by Jim Dameron, May-lee Chai  and Aaron Gwyn, poetry by Dan O’Brien, Andrea O’Rourke and Kimberly Johnson and a Found-Text feature on jazz pianist and composer Jelly Roll Morton. I think that’s about everything).

The first stage, the editing part, is gratifying. This last stage is not so fun, but it’s a necessity. With our spring issue, a glitch in In-Design left me struggling to collate various versions of page proofs that all had the same page number (179). This might not sound too bad, but it was. You’d think the different text on each page would be a sufficient marker—but, not so. I’d get everything in order, ready to check marked-up copy against corrected copy. Immediately, I was lost. I became grateful for page numbers other than 179. I didn’t know I liked page numbers so much, but I’ve realized I do. They are as valuable a printing convention as paragraphs, capitals and end punctuation. Readers don’t think about things like that unless they’re not there, but if they are missing, some readers become incensed. Browse book reviews on Amazon if you need proof. (Also, if you teach creative writing, reviews of any product on Amazon are a great writing prompt.)

The recent embarrassment for Barnes and Noble over its Nook e-book version of War and Peace—in which every appearance of the word “kindle” had inadvertently been replaced with the word Nook—reminds me that this not-so-creative stage is important, if only to keep people from laughing or getting mad at some humiliating oversight that undermines all the other work we’ve done on the issue.

In off-duty hours, to take away the edge I acquire checking proofs, I’ve been reading in a shamelessly unsystematic way. Last night I read two thirds of the book of Malachi and the accompanying scholarly commentary and then got sidetracked reading selections by W.H. Auden from the Norton Anthology that is currently on my nightstand with some other very eclectic things: Tranströmer and a history of the English language. These books are all impeccably edited. I have not found any errors in them. I notice errors, though I wouldn’t trash a book for poor copy editing unless it was unbearably poor. For other reasons, maybe.

Then I settled into The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It seemed a good fit, since my right brain has lately mandated that I work on a story about dissociative identity disorder, gender and the scary Old-Testament apocalypse, the book of Daniel.