Tuesday, September 13, 2011

If at First You Don't Succeed--Revise

For some years, the tail end of June, followed by the relaxed stride of July and the amble of August have meant more to you than mere Summer.  They meant a time of long walks and, before you needed your hips replaced with titanium, longer, mind-clearing runs, producing a lighthearted vessel into which came concepts, curiosities, and even what seemed completely realized stories, all buzzing about like files and moths trying to get past a screen door.

To extend the analogy, it was a time where you were gathering secret caches for the autumn and winter months ahead, months of lecturing, reading student papers, months in which you somehow revert to student status yourself in your own longing to improve.

Improve what?

The way you see the persons, places, and things about you, your fascination with the notion that nouns and proper nouns have secrets embedded within them of such value that, were you to understand them better than you do, your work would take on a luster of excitement and vitality.

There are, after all, secrets of discovery, moments you still recall when you discovered or became aware of something you knew was of value to you and would remain with you.  As the hormonal tsunami of puberty sloshed over you, proper nouns tended to have girl's names, giving you the sense that in addition to the much desired "making out," you would beyond that encounter ways to learn more about them and about yourself as you began slowly to experience boredom for the cultural paths that loomed ahead.  You became attracted to such books and poems as you could find in which the proper noun protagonist, young man or women, strode off into some misty future, as Stephen Deadalus did, to encounter reality and forge something in the smithy of your soul.

Years later, you came out of the university, your toolkit meager in comparison to many of your friends.  You had nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, gerunds.  You also had curiosity and enthusiasm.

In its special way, this tail of the comet that is June, this splendid July, and dreamlike August have visited and left remarkable gifts for you, their host.  Early September has come, leaving you a warming pile of birthday cards.  At the side of your desk is a growing pile of books all of which relate to some pursuit of some curiosity, all of which you, in your naivete, believe will result in a project of some sort.

Yesterday, you took delivery of a number of boxes in which, twenty-five books to the box, were copies of your most recent title.  Even though you knew the contents from having gone through the writing, revision, editorial passes, and copyediting, you indulged the ritual of thumbing through the pages.

When, in May of 2008, you purchased the second new car of your life, you set out on a scrupulous regime of careful parking, regular washing, waxing, and vacuuming the interior.  The first scratch came in December of that year; you noticed it as you brought a load of groceries from the Von's Shopping Center in the Montecito lower village.  You were philosophical, even though it did give you a pang.

In similar fashion, hefting your latest book, you experienced the Von's parking lot experience of discovering a typo.  Hardly anyone will notice, you told yourself.  Perhaps she who took the photo of you that grabs attention on the back cover,but who else?  And then another, which will be noticed.

Waddyou, some kind of a perfectionist nut?  What about that paperback novel of yours which had to be reprinted because the wrong final chapter was printed in it?

Perfection is the standard we apply after the fact to something we wanted to make as well as possible.  Perfection is wanting to copyedit late June, July and August of this year.

Your first class of the Fall Semester is this afternoon, after which you will drive forty miles south in your scratched Yaris to deliver the first presentation of book tour, your topic:  voice.  Tomorrow, a mere two classes and two lectures, but Saturday you go one hundred miles north in your scratched Yaris for part two of your book tour, a lecture on the how and why of point of view.

Most of the individuals you will meet on these ventures will in one way or another be hoping for glimmers of information and understanding.  The lovely elephant in the living room--you might even say the scratched elephant--is that hardly any of the individuals you see between now and Saturday will suspect you of being present for precisely those same things, information and understanding.

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