Tuesday, June 17, 2008

under the net

Took delivery two weeks ago of boxes of books and a piano that I put in storage 8 years ago. Some had spent time in Leeds with my DSL, who put them back in storage on going to NYU in 2006. The action of the piano has been wrapped in a blanket behind a sofa at the flat of DSL's father Eric in South Woodford. Some of the books were taken out of storage in 2002 and put back in storage in 2003 in London when I went to New York. Now they're here.

& many many more. Was going through a box when I came across yet another laptop, a Toshiba Satellite 110CS. A laptop with Windows 95 as its operating system and WordPerfect 6.0 for Windows. On the hard drive an early version of a book called The Seventh Samurai dating back to 1997. I open up Eudora and see an e-mail from Kristin Powers dated 17/01/2000:

Kristin was the production manager at Talk Miramax Books. She was replying to an e-mail from me about marking up the copy-editor's mark-up: if I disagreed with a change that had been made throughout, I asked, could I simply state that the change should be globally ignored or must it be manually reversed every time? (I reminded her that my contract gave me the last word.) Kristin's reply, which you probably can't read, was that in the case of systematic changes it was enough to state once that the change should not be made.

As I've said in an earlier post, through a series of unfortunate misunderstandings the copy-editor ended up rejecting the author's rejections of the majority of her improvements to the book, with the result that a great of deal of time was lost that should have been spent finishing other books. So the world is furnished with different objects from those of a world in which the production manager and copy-editor take the contract seriously. This world contains a mark-up of The Seventh Samurai encrusted with white-out, a laptop with correspondence about copy-editing, print-outs and disks with books that never progressed past the point they had reached when an offer of publication for The Seventh Samurai was made in August 1999. There are possible worlds that do not include the mark-up encrusted with white-out or the correspondence, and do include published books incorporating portions of what had been written by August 1999. The reason Kristin's e-mail comes up on the screen of the laptop is that I called it up later to check what it said, its assurance that global changes would be incorporated, upon receiving the ms with its erasures.

KP's e-mail might genuinely have been what it appeared to be: an undertaking that the author's mark-up would be respected and sent to the printer. The author would then have retained access to as well as possession of the personal library which had helped to form The Seventh Samurai, and would have been better placed to write successors to the book. It's demoralising, of course, to struggle with the caprices of the industry for 8 years, only to regain access to the Oxford Latin Dictionary, Greek-English Lexicon, Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, Wright's Arabic Grammar, collection of Oxford Classical Texts and so on which were readily available when one worked as a secretary and could not find a publisher. It's demoralising, of course, to have squandered so much time and energy on petty struggles, when there are so many serious problems with the world.


nsiqueiros said...

As coincidence would have it, I was thinking about The Last Samurai today. I was thinking about pages 116 and 117:

Another day on the Circle Line, house too cold to stay in. An icy rain sweeps the city, underground it is warm and dry. . . we have left the train each time at Tower Hill to make faces at the video camera & watch ourselves making faces in the banks of TVs. Or rather--you see yourself in one TV. In the others you do not appear--they show sometimes an empty platform, sometimes a platform with a few people, sometimes a platform with a train pulling around a bend. I think these are images from cameras further down the platform, but they look like glimpses into possible worlds, worlds where the sun rises and the trains run without you. There are pushchairs to be pushed but not by you, bad memories to be dodged but not by you.

The choices we make or don't make, the things way say or don't say, all branch off and lead to different outcomes, different worlds. There can sometimes be difficulty in deciding which world we wish to exist in, and even then, even more difficulty in deciding what choice we must make that will lead us to that world. And perhaps there are multiple choices that lead to the same world, but some choices lead to obstructions and others do not. Each choice we makes only leads to more choices to make. Each choice we do not make still leads to more choices to make, or not make. And yet, not making a choice is still, itself, a choice. We are butterflies trying to see tomorrow.

The world in which the book that was published is the same as the book you wrote lies now only in your mind. I wish I could see that world as you see it. I wish I could read the book as you wrote it.

Andrew said...

Yes, this kind of thing is very annoying. I hate it. In the copy editors' defense, maybe they have had their hearts hardened by many horrible dealings with authors who keep changing things back and forth. I still don't like it when it happens to me, though. Even if the changes are accepted, it's exhausting to have to fight through each one.

"Post-Google" by TAR ART RAT said...

ok, question anaswered- and jeez, you could open a Kreuzberg library now practically!

Mithridates said...

The bowlderizers & poetasters & talentless hacks who 'smoothed-out' Shakespeare at least had the courtesy to wait until the poor guy was dead before they ruined his plays. And by some miracle the correctors were eventually corrected. There's another possible world for you, which happens this time to be the actual one.

Oh boy. Well we may not able to help you avoid clashes with future idiots, but you've at least got plenty of sympathetic ears.

Anonymous said...

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