April 19, 2016 in reading-reflections by Lindsay
I had two alternating reactions to this piece. First, I was intrigued by Norris’s attention to the mechanics of grammar and meaning. I agree that sometimes the possibilities raised in language by re-styling phrases and sentences is pretty mystical. These parts of her subject matter resonated with me and the work that I’ve done in the writing center. I feel like I’ve experienced walking editorial and copy-editing tightropes with people’s documents. At what point am I confusing clarity for my own literary idiosyncrasies? Why would I know the author’s intent better than they do?
Luckily, the writing center requires authors to be present, so queries can be transformed into dialogue on clarity and intent then and there. I don’t have labor under editorial hierarchies like Norris describes. It was during these parts of the excerpt that I became a little disheartened. Logically, I can tell myself that probably not every magazine or publishing house has the same style and atmosphere as The New Yorker. Still, reading this freaked me out a little, because I really doubt that I would be able to thrive in this sort of environment. The anxiety and rigidity would drive me mad. I started to feel that, despite having considerable background in the mysticism of language, this line of work is not right for me. This is a little disorienting, because I had kinda thought that this was something I could be alright at.
Aside from my personal dilemmas surrounding this piece, I liked how the depiction of the daily grind of copy-editing was mixed in with snapshots of characters who worked alongside the author, and with the author’s “theory” on editing, so-to-speak. It reminds me of the style of assignment I have in my senior capstone, writing an autobiographical criticism or commentary on literature and writing. The theory portions of this excerpt also explicitly raise questions we as budding editors can ask ourselves, and give us a lens through which to relate our experiences working on The Crucible to the larger world of publishing.