The Chumps of Choice

A Congenial Spot for the Discussion of Against the Day, by Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Cornell '59, and Any Other Damned Thing That Comes Into Our Heads. Warning: Grad Students and Willie-Wavers will be mocked.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Additional Discussion, pp. 243-259

Chumps: here's where we (actually they) discuss this section's contents In Relation To Other Pynchon Novels. Beware: pretty much everyone in here's a Grad Student or better, and have been known to Wave Willies as well.



At Wednesday, February 21, 2007 6:05:00 AM, Blogger H. Rumbold, Master Barber said...

"They sat at a small veneered table, with room enough for their cups and the layout of miniature Tarocchi, or Tarot cards, Renata had produced a deck of from her handbag and shuffled (...)" (253:5)

When I read that of from double adposition, I could almost imagine hearing the sonic boom as some anonymous editor's red pen swooped toward the manuscript. Surely you mean "of which Renata had produced a deck from...", Mr. Pynchon. And I imagine Mr. Pynchon's "STET, dammit!" in the galleys.

Well, it's kind of a humpbacked sentence any way you edit it, if you insist on keeping the "produced from her handbag and definition of Tarocchi. Hemingway or Damon Runyon
would have snipped them both, but neither would have written this book.

So I wanted to send praises to the anonymous editor at Viking/Penguin
who worked on this obviously difficult manuscript. The final product is remarkably free of errors! Which is saying the referee called a good game - you never noticed he was there. But compare to the state of most contemporary books. Who among us has not noticed how shoddy editing is becoming? Like a fairly serious social history of the oyster and New York referring twice to abductor muscles instead of adductor. Run it through the spell checker and rush it out to the printer.

So, here's to you, anonymous editor at Viking/Penguin! A whole pack of Chumps of Choice (most of us probably at the giving or receiving end of the red pen at some point in our lives) reading with fine-tooth combs have found barely a quibble. And maybe the publishing industry will someday see fit to honor its editors with a mention at least as prominent as the salute to the typeface.

H. Rumbold, Master Barber

At Wednesday, February 21, 2007 3:47:00 PM, Blogger Monte Davis said...

Dally after the Columbian Fair (pp.69-70):

"As years piled on, it came to seem more like the memory of some previous life, deformed, disguised, stretches of it missing, this capital of dream she had once lived in, maybe was even numbered among the rightful nobility of."

That last clause is bad prescriptive syntax, but dead-on American diction, and (in its context) a deliberately, artfully, triumphantly hobbled rhythm. Hail to the unsung, non-red-penning editor who knew what a final preposition can amount to.

At Friday, February 23, 2007 6:48:00 AM, Blogger Neddie said...

Mmm. There's editors and there's editors, right? As one who by the sweat of his brow as a comma-jockey for Satan and Shyster put food on the table during those fell years 1984-87, I can easily imagine the handing-over of Mr. Pynchon's MS to the copy editor at the Penguin Press.

I believe the marching orders might have included the words "most important voice in postmodern American letters" and "I think he knows what he's doing."

Given the task, I'd have restricted myself to looking for typos and ensuring the house style manual was adhered to. You don't -- that's don't -- screw with Thomas Pynchon's prose unless you're curious about what unemployment feels like.

And yes, Akatabi, editing has become a dreadfully shoddy affair, which is directly attributable to the financial relationship between author and publisher. Once an author attains a certain degree of guaranteed book sales, all power switches from the publisher to the author, who is free to use the matter of editing as a bargaining chip.

Unfortunately, this is true whether or not the author can write his way out of a paper bag. Being able to write your way out of a paper bag is simply no longer even a criterion that publishers consider -- if, indeed, it ever was a consideration. I don't think it will come as a great surprise to find that many extremely successful authors (financially successful, I mean) are spectacularly -- like, hilariously -- bad writers. I offer Dan Brown as the personification, the pinnacle, of this back-assward economic relationship.

At Friday, February 23, 2007 8:06:00 AM, Blogger Boldly Serving Up Wheat Grass said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At Friday, February 23, 2007 8:07:00 AM, Blogger Boldly Serving Up Wheat Grass said...

I rather enjoyed The DaVinci Code, and also Angels & Demons. For me, not every book has to be a National Book Award contender. Certainly, there are aspects of Brown that many writers and readers dislike (and, yeah, I had criticisms as well), but the stories actually interested me.

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