Friday 2012-10-12

I've been emailing back and forth with a friend who's applying to universities, and is beset with the typical application essays. In discussing editing, he sent me a link to Adler's How to Mark a Book, which sounds like a good guide to active reading.

Until you actually read the damn thing. Never does it occur to Adler that the author might be wrong, that they might have left something out, mis-stated a fact, mis-used a word, or constructed a sentence so poorly that you were instantly condemned to begin rewriting.

It doesn't matter how well-regarded an author is, how far they have advanced human understanding, or any of a dozen lesser lauds. The default proposition is that the author fucked everything up and it's our job to fix it.

We strike words, sentences, full paragraphs, even chapters we strike and strike and strike until only the worthy stand; our arrows, they fly between the addled words who march only because the typesetter made them, the author a derelict drunk who passed out back on page 0; flowing from the pen frustrated, our marginalia sternly lectures the careless author, screams at the slow author, and openly weeps at the quicker's failure to understand or even feel.

And that is how we mark a book.