Wednesday, March 22, 2006

It is a sad day when you realize that your 90-year-old grandmother is in better shape than you are! I found I was increasingly involuntarily groaning as I rose from my chair (not a good sign when so much of my day is spent seated editing and writing). The tipping point came when I could no longer stand upright after rising, and hobbled like a little old lady (excluding grandmother, who still hikes up the Rockies at the drop of a hat), or the sort of witch-with-stick I imagined as a child in Hansel and Gretel, but without stick. So I have spent the past few weeks being crunched by a diminutive Australian osteopath and subsequently recovering from said crunchings. She looked me straight in the eye and said "Why have you taken so long to come in?!" with some fierceness. I had the grace to look slightly ashamed, as I have put the dreaded hour off for some considerable time, hence the total degeneration. Just like going to the dentist, it is really not so bad once you get there, and I am beginning to come out the other side (no more involuntary grunts!).

Bought Vikas Swarup's Q&A today, although as gift, not for myself. I also have not read it yet which is not a sound basis on which to gift a book. I have an unwritten (although now broken) rule not to give books I haven't read myself. The idea being to know what you are giving. This doesn't mean I only give books I like, because sometimes I don't like a book, but am fairly sure someone else will. Nor does it mean that all the books I give are successes, because you never know how someone will react. I well remember the first time this happened to me on a substantial scale - I inhaled Annie Proulx's Shipping News, gave it to a bunch of friends, and gradually the feedback filtered through, with mixed reviews. I had loved it, finding it hopeful in its ending, others found it entirely depressing. If you were one of the latter, I apologize. Anyway, it is a birthday today and Q&A sounds perfect for the intended, let's just hope it is. I shall have to read it in a few months time when my local library catches up to it (sigh).

I was (however, naturally) seduced by the latest edition of SLIGHTLY FOXED: the real reader's quarterly. How can some publications do this to me?! It somehow found its way into my bag... of course, the consequence is that there will, as usual, be even more books that I shall just have to read (although, now that my commuting days are in the past, I am being slightly better at haunting my local library). I dipped into the new Slightly Foxed over a cup of coffee at my local french cafe, and was delighted by a piece by Charles Elliott, Edit and Be Damned. He writes:

"At the most basic level, line or copy editing, an editor needs a technique for judging and perhaps improving a piece of writing. My own has always been to read slowly, 'listening' for imprecision, wrong words, failure to track properly. This seems to work; a good writer sounds fine, a bad one bumpy or inept. The rhythm is wrong. It is usually pretty simple to identify the rough spots and either fix them or tell the writer to do so. (My predecessor at Life magazine, where I worked many years ago, had a rule of thumb for this - if a caption or a piece of text could be repaired with a pencil, fine; if you had to have recourse to a typewriter to do it, send the piece back to the writer.)"

My hero! Longlive Charles Elliott! Longlive! Can I return my manuscript to my writer now - please?!

Due to shortening the amount of time I sit at a desk, I shall stop for today, but let me recommend a delightful diversion in the website of a woman episcopalian priest-in-training. Most extraordinary are her collections of "angelic kitsch", "holy week kitsch-o-rama" and "stations of the kitsch" - wonderful!



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