July 9th, 2008

Proof of art

I am now in possession of the final page proofs of Once, along with an absurdly lovely Advanced Reading Copy. I was really thrilled to get this stuff, waiting to see what the copy-edit looked like and HOLD A BOUND BOOK IN MY HANDS, and yet as soon as it arrived, I felt a strange sensation of doom.

Why? The pages are gorgeous, the copy-edit thorough and sensitive. As someone who has worked for several years in book production, I not only knew ahead of time what to expect, I have made several resolutions over the years as to how I would behave.

My resolutions in terms of dealing with page proofs and copy-edits are myriad but that basically boil down to: don’t be a lunatic. The end of the publishing process, when the manuscript starts to a) look like a book, and b) be more the responsibility of the publishing house than the author, is generally when writers start to lose their minds. They might think their artistic integrity is being degraded by the insertion of a hyphen into the word “email.” They wonder if “couch” shouldn’t really be “sofa,” if the text wouldn’t look better in Verdanah font, if the serial comma isn’t sort of fascist, and, most importantly, if the book doesn’t suck and couldn’t just be rewritten now, in just a few extra days, with a pen over the proofs.

These are, of course, hysterical displacement activities, busywork for a mind that has been deeply immersed in, and totally in control of, a project that is about to float out of range. It’s as good as you could make it, but faced with losing the opportunity for good-making, you lose faith. You fear the unknown, the time-after-book. I think this is why people cry at weddings and graduations.

It’s a legit emotional reaction (well, that’s what I’m going with, anyway) if you recognize it as such. I mean, with all this knowledge, I’m surprised that I’m feeling the hysteria of hating most of the book right now, but I’m not going to displace that hysteria in the above-mentioned ways. I’m sure there are some problems, but who knows if, in my hysterical state, those are the ones I’m seeing right now. I’ve watched tonnes of authors rework paragraphs and pages at the last minute, only to turn in marginally improved, or marginally degraded, work.

So I’m going to get by proofs back to Biblioasis on time, with few disagreements and minimal changes. A bad book is not going to become a good one at page proofs–no margin is that wide, never mind that a production person will come after you with a tire iron. Even though I’m not seeing it right now, I’ll just have to take it on faith that I wasn’t crazy all those months and years I worked on this, and that it’s probably going to be just fine. That’s what I’m going with, anyway.

How could I forget you / how could I forget you?

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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