Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ghost Editor

You have not a great set of experience with process servers, enough, however, to alert you to the consequential need for some immediate response. Being served is an initiation into a legal process, a matter impatient for performance of some sort.

You have a long and checkered enough association with lawyers, many of whom were your undergraduate chums, others still your students, yet others turning the metaphoric tables by becoming your clients.  A lawyer who represents him- or herself is said to have a fool for a client.  An editor who has a lawyer for a client has a complex set of problems to deal with, not the least being ego, the attorney's and yours.  

You have a long and checkered association with manuscripts, all of which you assumed at one stage or another to have been completed.  This seems a simple enough equation until, that is, you factor in the editorial process and that most mercurial, illusive element of all, time.

A process in this context is a document of warrant, such as, say, a warrant to search a particular vehicle or premises, a warrant for the arrest and taking into custody of an individual, an order to show cause.  A manuscript in this particular context is an essay, short story, novel, or book length study, presumed to be completed.  The presumption of completion opens a large door of potential assumptions and conditions.  Many of these assumptions are related to editorial process and time, as a perspective.

Presumed by whom to be completed?  And here, the door is as much ajar as it can bear.  Presumed by you to be completed?  If so, this brings forth the next question:  When was the last time you read it?  This question is not only insightful, it is a major key to a major human experience.

It is one thing to think completion in terms of having consumed a meal or drunk a cup of coffee or even having taken an after-dinner walk, even more to the point here, it is a completed action for an appellate judge to have rendered a decision on a potential issue of a lower court ruling.  

The point gets up and stretches now.  An appellate judge's ruling may also be subject to review, meaning it may be held or overturned. A manuscript you thought completed might not hold up under the scrutiny of an editor.  A manuscript you thought completed might not hold up under your own scrutiny, which gives the point its sharp edge.  

You are in fact hopeful of growing in most of the approved senses as well as those over which you have less control.  You're hopeful of gaining more insights into the human condition, the ways in which some storytellers make superb use of narrative techniques, and the potentials for learning more.  At some distance from what you considered to be complete, you discover missing elements.

You are also aware of the difficulty of wrenching your vision from its numinous abstraction, trying to somehow capture its inherent drama on the page.  You are not that far away from the realization that in past times, you were content merely to describe the vision rather than the more difficult and demanding task you see before you of dramatizing it.

You find yourself from time to time, particularly with your younger students at the university, trying to emphasize the need to do this, to grab the dream out of the cosmos, then dramatize it.  In the midst of this moment of emphasis, you become aware once again of their brightness, and so you push harder, hopeful of reaching them.

But they need time, just as you do, time away from the dream.  Time for growth, reflection, understanding, all concepts to be had from reading and from actual experience.

The jump from a manuscript presumed to be complete, and a bound book is enormous, even with the technologies of the digital age.  Many authors make a point of not giving the bound book a close reading, perhaps from the experience of seeing in the printed and published product all the things not yet attended to, the things of growth and distance.

There is a finality to be found in the books of others that you cannot fathom in your own.  Rereading old projects is a progress report of a sense; the act of measuring your ability to grow.  Or being haunted by ghosts.

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