Good Faith, Stupidity, And The Internet
Part 5: The Folly Of The Modern Books Editor
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 8/29/10
Redactions The PDF File
Of all the essays, in and out of this series, that I have written, about the problems surrounding the Internet, this one may be the most important, because it goes beyond the Internet, and details why the publishing industry is suffering so greatly, financially. In it I will show details from a correspondence I had with a small press publisher that contacted me. I had sent a manuscript of a novel I’d written several years ago, and after a few months I received a rejection that included an email detailing the rejection, the annotated manuscript with editorial suggestions that, at their best, were inane, and at their worst, showed the publisher really had no idea what even constitutes good, much less great, writing and literature, despite his website’s claims to the contrary. In this essay, I will demonstrate, even through just a few pages worth of excerpts, that no reader of any real intellect would not be intrigued by the writing they contain, and not want to read more of the narrative and the characters. In short, the flaw is not with the good writers nor readers but with the bad editors, agents, and publishers.
I should add, I have thought long and hard over whether I should a) do this essay, b) publish the correspondence, and c) lambaste the claims the editor makes, as well as whether or not to use the real name of the press and publisher. I concluded that I should, because the overall greater benefit to aspiring contemporary writers of quality, in knowing they are not alone, in banging their heads, outweighs whatever personal loss in pride and/or increase in ignominy the publisher suffers. And I say this because the man truly seems like a nice individual, but a nice individual who is simply clueless as to his chosen field. And it is this fact that demands I be fully forthcoming about the correspondence, especially since I did, in the midst of our correspondence, honestly warn the man that some of his claims and suggestions were so outrageously bad that I was going to have to some day use them in an essay; so, he was forewarned and forearmed, which was more than I was by his insanely deliterate barrage.
I was first contacted by the publisher, late last year, after I posted this review of a book written by UFO Abduction charlatan Budd Hopkins. I then got an email from the publisher of Firecrest International Limited books, a U.K. based publisher. His name is Peter Brookesmith, and he contributed 3 of the 7 comments to this blog review of the same book. Initially we just corresponded, and I eventually added him to my website’s e-list. After the usual correspondence about the ins and outs of publishing, I asked what works he was looking for, thinking he might want to look at a manuscript from me or my wife. I eventually sent him my manuscript of a short novel called Bit Of Golem. It’s a humorous look at the life of a famed B film director, not unlike legendary indy filmmaker Sam Fuller. The difference being that the main character is a dwarf with sexual fetishes, who made a ton of money off his films and pornography, then bought himself a huge estate, and retreated from the world, ala Charles Foster Kane, in Orson Welles’ film Citizen Kane. The book is mainly just a series of conversations between the dwarf, named Lem Goldman (aka Bit Von Rheingold), and a reporter for a celebrity magazine, who seems determined to dig up some dirt on the dwarf, thinking he must be hiding a secret. In the end, this may or may not be true.
The basic conceit of the book came to me after reading Sandor Marai’s novel Embers, which is basically a one way conversation between two old friends who were involved in a romantic triangle, years earlier. However, in much of the deliterate prose published today, where plot, rumination, and lack of character development are the norm, such a basic formula becomes daring, and even innovative. My novel pushed the basic conceit of Marai’s novel even further, with the conversations acting as de facto frames within the frame of the novel’s narrative (to use a cinematic metaphor). Naturally, the publisher, Peter Brookesmith of Firecrest International, so-called ‘Publishers And Republishers Of Remarkable Fiction,’ and a small press man who often repeated the attacks against ‘big, corporate publishers’ for pushing crap, was not any better at judging writing or fiction than any of the apparatchiks involved in the corporate publishing world. The fact is that, regardless of motivation for publishing, there simply is no substitute for editorial ability and reading comprehension. Yes, you read that correctly, reading comprehension. And unfortunately I will prove beyond any doubt that this publisher was not merely someone with ‘bad taste,’ but someone who simply has no ability to judge any writing, much less great writing. I won’t go in to any of the personal emails exchanged over the months, regarding things like the UFO book or opinions on art and life, in general; I’ll stick only to the specifics.
Here now the email that I received with Brookesmith’s attached PDF file of comments, as well as an annotated Word document of my novel. One note is that I have excised (with the bolded term EXCISION) passages from both Brookesmith’s and my email reply that make reference to some personal issues regarding Brookesmith that, despite his demonstrable idiocy in his chosen field, do not damn him to any personal embarrassment. My beef is not with the man, but the editor.
Forwarded message ----------
From: Peter B <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 6:48 PM
Subject: Your books
To: Dan Schneider
I have this day put two books for review and a letter in the air mail to Jessica. The letter mainly responds to her synopsis and sample chapters of Sounds with Song. With luck and a following wind these should arrive in the next few days.
Thinking it only fair (and still retaining a shrivelled walnut of a conscience), I have read and commented on Bit of Golem. Attached is the annotated MS and a PDF of additional & general comments, which I hope you'll find helpful. As I remarked to you a good while back, I'm not in the market for memoirs, so I haven't set about that volume.
Also attached FWIW is my say on Hopkins's memoir, which may also entertain.
I do apologize for taking so long over this. It has to say the least been a tricky winter & spring EXCISION, but that doesn't really excuse the bad manners in leaving you drumming your fingers all this time. Sorry.
FireCrest International Limited
PUBLISHERS & REPUBLISHERS
OF REMARKABLE ORIGINAL FICTION
Naturally, it’s difficult to deal with someone who is clueless, but that they seem to be very genuine and nice makes it all the harder to point out their obvious deficiencies. Here was my reply, which mentions a few of the edits that I will go into detail on, in a bit.
Forwarded message ----------
From: Dan Schneider
Date: Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 7:34 PM
Subject: Fwd: Your books
To: Peter B <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Thanks for the proofreading. After a while, blear sets in, and it's good that another set of eyes sees it.
As for the comments, in general. This is why people do NOT read fiction that is being published. Almost to a letter, the comments consist of wanting to be a passive reader that does not have to think. Show don't tell may work in 3rd grade classroom show and tell days, but not in art. The book is about the meeting of two divergent folks, one famed, one not. There is a book by Hungarian novelist Sandor Marai, Embers, that I took the basic premise from- two men meet at one's remote castle, and they talk of their former love triangle. That's the novel. As trite an idea as possible, but how it is told is what works.
Your basic thrust is you want plot driven actions and everything explained. Why?
From Ch 5:
Details are for historians, they don’t necessarily make or break a story. Now there’s something you may wanna quote, Angie, because too many people get caught up in trying to recreate some past era or the like, rather than just suggesting it. I mean, think of that French painter, what’s his name?’
[|What would make her say this? Esp. as Magritte was Belgian?]
Peter, when two
folk converse naturally, they don't need specifics. That Magritte was Belgian
not French is beside the point. I know that, but it matters not in the least in
the context of the convo. Had they been talking of Napoleon, and said some date
that was a few years off, in a casual manner, that ADDS to the realism.
These sorts of comments are exactly why fiction is dying (as well as film). The comments utterly miss the point of art and the tale told. Attached are two stories. The first- No Trouble, involves characters in a drama about a horse sinking in a mudhole. The comments most of the places I sent it got, inevitably centered on why I did not say what color the horse was, as if that had anything to do with the tale. It was just the setup. I then wrote a sequel to that short story collection, in which I told the same general tale from the POV of another character. In the second tale I gave the horse's color, but it is just as irrelevant to the drama of that tale as the lack of color was to the first tale.
The point is, as Whitman said, great artists have to educate their readers to make them great audiences. That's why Cosmoetica exists. If you are tripping over minor and deliberate points added to a conversation to make it flow more naturally, just because you know there is a discrepancy, that says far more about you, and your limits as a reader, as well as why you even engage art in the first place, than it says about the passage.
Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the time and close reading you gave it, but I could just imagine what a Mark Twain would do with such in an essay or short story. In fact, it's a great example, like the comments on the tales featuring the horse, and one too good not to use in some future work.
In short, pushing for formula, convention, exposition of every last detail, and ones that have no real bearing on the matters at hand in the work, are dumbing down, pure and plain. And, the style comments, I can imagine these being applied to a Dickinson or Joyce. Yet, all these years later, what purpose does such bowdlerization serve?
Another point made:
The reporter shook her head affirmatively. [Don’t people usually nod affirmatively?]
Peter, are not nodding and shaking one's head the same thing, save for the fact that shaking affirmatively is a less trite way of phrasing hit? Why would I want to be trite?
Can you see that point?
Again, thanks for the comments. I'm sure Jess will enjoy reviewing the works. I'll have her contact you when she posts a review.
I should mention that, when the manuscripts were sent to Brookesmith, he said he would send two books for Jess to review. After the rejection and email exchange, and seeing some of Brookesmith’s comments, Jess decided to not review the books, and marked them RETURN TO SENDER. I would have followed through and read and reviewed the books, but Jess felt, since he had delayed sending them for many months, she had no obligation to review them, especially if she did not accept them. But, let’s just look at the 2 edits I mention in my email. The first has to do with the colloquial assumption of the reporter that the Belgian painter Rene Magritte was French. First, she uses the word with a question mark, denoting she’s not sure- perhaps of the name, the nationality of the name, etc. But most people hearing the French sounding name Magritte would assume his nationality, just as someone referencing a person named Tanagawa would assume that person is Japanese, although he or she may be living in the Philippines or Chile. But Brookesmith cannot even get why anyone (fictive or not) would ask this. Clearly he has no sense of colloquial idiom if he is asking this. Now, I know that Magritte was Belgian, but he has a French name. So did Napoleon Bonaparte, although technically, despite ruling the French Empire, he was a Corsican by birth. Similarly, Rainer Maria Rilke is considered a German poet, although, technically, he was born in Austria-Hungary, now the Czech Republic. So, technically, he can be considered a Czech poet, but since he wrote mostly in German (and some French), and he was of German descent, he is called a German poet. These things seem to be too much for Brookesmith to grasp.
Forwarded message ----------
From: Peter B <email@example.com>
Date: Sun, Jun 20, 2010 at 7:50 PM
Subject: Re: Your books
To: Dan Schneider
Thanks for your comments on my comments. Here are some other
responses, mainly in the hope of clarity—
Almost to a letter, the comments consist of wanting to be a passive
reader that does not have to think. […] Your basic thrust is you want
> plot-driven actions and everything explained. Why?
Why indeed. As this is the exact opposite of what I do want, I am suitably bemused that you reached this conclusion.
However, I do think a story needs a plot of some kind, or else it becomes some other kind of writing, same as a piece of music needs a tune, to catch and keep the audience’s attention, or it is no more than sophisticated noise (Berio, Stockhausen). The more interesting stories, however simply or intricately plotted, tend to ask ‘How did this come about?’ in one form or another, so plot in a sense becomes secondary to the heart of the work.—Although, incidentally, I don’t think writers are obliged to answer the puzzles they choose to explore. Which is perhaps why so much great art is ambiguous.
As you say, ‘how it is told is what works’. It was the how, not the what, that I was mainly addressing in my comments, and the nub of that boils down to my feeling that the way you’d done what you’d done in Golem wouldn’t hold any but the most determined reader’s attention over the span of a book. The not-too-indecipherable codeword for that was ‘claustrophobia’. This is a wholly different matter from the question of the extent to which the subject, viz. movies, midgets, and bowel movements, might affect an agent’s or a publisher’s assessment of the book’s commercial appeal. Which is unpredictable, but something that one has to consider.
To your particular comments—
>'...I mean, think of that French painter, what’s his name?’
‘Magritte?’ [What would make her say
this? Esp. as Magritte was Belgian?]
> Peter, when two folk converse naturally, they don't need specifics.
> Magritte was Belgian not French is beside the point.
Not quite, but I admit it may not have been clear that the real thrust of the question was “What would make her say this?”—which is a matter of technique (how, not what), insofar as she has no reason to come up with any name at all at this point. It’s not as if he’s said ‘Impressionist’ or ‘18th-century’ or even ‘Fauve’ or possibly ‘Mma…something’. In other words, pace what you say, this doesn’t in fact add to the realism and if it’s art it lacks craft. A ‘French painter’ could be Fragonard, Delacroix, Guérin, Cézanne, Renoir, Poussin, Vlaminck, or one of several dozen others that most of us have at least heard of. And then she comes up with a Belgian! This is like someone saying ‘that English poet’ (no shortage there) and someone suggesting Seamus Heaney. It’s bizarre as well as altogether unprompted, and not really analogous to your instance of Napoleon and the odd wonky date, which would indeed pass without comment.
I read your two stories. I wonder if the reason at least people wondered why you didn’t mention the colour of the horse in ‘No Trouble’ was simply that horses tend to be identified as greys, bays, chestnuts, etc. sooner than as warmbloods, thoroughbreds, etc; and because (which has a bit more weight) giving the colour does help the reader visualize what’s going on. But I agree that it’s irrelevant to the tale (sounds like it’s at least part Appaloosa in ‘Hiram Feather’, but so what). I even minded less that what you call the horse’s buttocks would in horse-speak actually be his quarters, because not everyone knows that and being technically accurate would more likely hinder than help. So, no problem there.
If you are tripping over minor and deliberate points added to a
conversation to make it flow more naturally, just because you know
there is a discrepancy, that says far more about you, and your limits
as a reader, as well as why you even engage art in the first place, than
> it says about the passage.
I was inclined to chuckle at this; it reminds me of people who say ‘That’s just your opinion’ and don’t realize they’ve just devalued their own. But certainly I tripped over a lack of natural flow. And it stuck out to catch my pointy toe because such a lack is not a characteristic of your writing; it was a lapse, for reasons as above. You seem to be admitting and defending a lack of natural flow here while maintaining it’s realistic. I think it’s possible to be too realistic, and ‘natural flow’ is what good writers create as a digestible substitute for the messiness of real-life dialogue.
In short, pushing for formula, convention, exposition of every last detail,
and ones that have no real bearing on the matters at hand in the work, are
dumbing down, pure and plain. And, the style comments, I can imagine
these being applied to a Dickinson or Joyce. Yet, all these years later,
> what purpose does such bowdlerization serve?
a) Just where is this ‘pushing for formula, convention, exposition of every last detail’? The book, as it stands, is hard work, and in ways it doesn’t have to be, partly because of its relentless setting and partly because the prose generally lacks fire—and our boy’s perversities don’t compensate for that. (Lest you thought they did—if in film bizarre but boringly composed images were enough to make great art—or art of any kind—then we’d all be rating that old fraud Kenneth Anger as highly as Fellini, wouldn’t we?) To revert to my musical analogy: Beethoven’s last quartets are ‘difficult’ music, but he didn’t think it was dumbing down to make them initially attractive (tunes—melodies, even) against which the complexity of the variations create their own sense. This is certainly where Whitman’s famous apothegm applies. Wagner’s probably an even better example. Plenty of hummable stuff there, hand in hand with extreme harmonic complexity, and that’s before you start on the startling ideas in the libretti. Accessibility is not ipso facto a barrier to creating great art, and may even demand greater cunning of the artist. Think what Jane Austen and Dickens did with page-turners.
b) As for the style comments. Anyone can see at first glance that Dickinson and Joyce had their own unique voice and that messing with the punctuation, spelling—whatever—is not going to help the reader. Likewise ee cummings or Kerouac. Expunging their idiosyncrasies was not going to improve their work: patently, rather the opposite. But as Kerouac, and in my opinion Joyce, illustrate, lack of convention in itself is no guarantee of worth. In your MS—this or any other—correcting things like your idea of a dash is hardly bowdlerization (removing ‘material that is considered improper or offensive… esp. with the result that it becomes weaker or less effective’ according to my dictionary). It’s just making your intention clear instead of leaving you looking either careless or amateur. And just what, exactly, have you got to lose by conforming to these simple conventions? Does modernizing Donne’s spelling deflate his poetry? Such changes as I suggest would happen anyway in the hands of a copy editor, but to get that far you may as well not irritate a publisher’s reader. What I’m offering actually is some fairly cheap PR, none of which alters the meaning of your words.
You also say:
> Peter, are not nodding and shaking one's head the same thing, save
> the fact that shaking affirmatively is a less trite way of phrasing
> Why would I want to be trite?
No reason at all you should be trite. Although one eyebrow does raise, given your use of that cant word ‘issues’—which would be worth avoiding. But this one doesn’t come off—it reeks of being different just for the sake of it—and anyway is not a place where avoiding triteness (it’s not as if you were describing someone falling in love) is exactly critical. Unless you think straightforward phrasing and common meanings have to be avoided at all costs, in which case you’d better revisit every occasion on which your characters pour drinks, sit down, or even get glimmers of recognition. Let alone fuck. Which way madness lies. Besides, nodding and shaking one’s head are not the same thing, any more than tossing a salad and throwing one are. If they were, we wouldn’t have different words for them. What you’ve done here is created a confusion, or at best made yourself look confused, and to no useful creative purpose. You could, were it that important, have avoided ‘triteness’ with any of these: fluttered, flapped, twitched, wobbled, jiggled, joggled… hell, maybe even brandished. But not shook. And would you/do you gain anything? Not really. I’m reminded of an author of my acquaintance who, too desperate to avoid cliché, once described a character so nervous ‘his tongue rattled across his lips’. Well, I think not, actually, Graham, if you listen carefully.
Thanks for good wishes re: the blues. I think I am 90 per cent there, although as WC Fields remarked, more or less, it’s fine falling 20,000 feet to the ground from an aeroplane—it’s the last six inches, are the difficult bit.
FireCrest International Limited
PUBLISHERS & REPUBLISHERS
OF REMARKABLE ORIGINAL FICTION
Note how Brookesmith utterly misses my point re: Magritte. To your average deliterate person, only a few painters with French sounding names will come to mind, and most starting with the letter M: Monet, Manet, Matisse, Magritte. There’s a very good chance she’d name one of them, and in choosing Magritte, this is a perfect expression of the suggestion of one character influencing the other. I will detail other points later.
Here was my reply:
Forwarded message ----------
From: Dan Schneider
Date: Mon, Jun 21, 2010 at 3:46 PM
Subject: Re: Your books
To: Peter B <firstname.lastname@example.org>
On Sun, Jun 20, 2010 at 7:50 PM, Peter B <email@example.com> wrote:
***Peter, one cannot get rid of narrative in art, only retard it. The film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, as example, has a great story and narrative, as well as character development. It's simply not predictable and trite. The book has a plot- two people gather, one as an interviewer for a famed person, who recounts his life. He goes into depth about his life, and wittingly or not, touches upon many deep philosophic chords. The reporter, on the other hand, wants to just probe for dirt on his life. The whole book is a duel with both of the protagonists using each other. There are also symbolic and metaphoric things, as well. Almost all of your suggestions are at an elementary school level.
They do not respect the fact that my work actually writes up to the intelligent, not down to the lowest common denominator. Yes, someone with an elementary school reading comprehension will not want to read the book, but neither do those folks read Huck Finn, Moby-Dick, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, or Remembrance Of Things Past.
I mentioned two of the specific comments, and w/o even looking at the comments again, I recall you had a comment about the character's pseudonym, Rheingold. You did not think it was even a name. First, a quick Google search would have dispelled that- I grew up with a few Rhengolds, both as a first and surname, and it was a well known beer in NYC when I grew up. Yet, you wonder of the spelling, and not even the significance of either the character's real or fake names to the title and the themes within- i.e.- he's a self-made Jew in an industry filled with Anti-Semitism. Again, there is much about America in the mid-20th C. that the character's life entails, but this is about the depth of the comments. I sent the two tales about the characters involved with a sinking horse for a reason, because the comments from other editors of websites about wanting to know the color of the horse, while ignoring the drama of the characters about it is as typical as your either being oblivious to or not caring about the rather manifest political content of the book.
Seriously, it's a step above the time my dumb sister was taking a college course and had to read Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener, and asked me to explain it, because she just thought the tale was about, y'know, this dumb guy.
Peter, I later mentioned Napoleon. I know he's Corsican, but most people, because he ruled France, wd say he was that French guy. Recall, this is a conversation between two folks in entertainment, not two historians of art. Real people talk this way. I know, all the time when I write to the hundreds of folks that email me a week, or people at work, I bite my tongue because they speak of all sorts of things that are askew, from the grand- speaking of cavemen and dinosaurs as if they were contemporaneous to each other, to people who might watch Battleship Potemkin and not realize that the e=mc2 guy also made films. As for what would make her say this- casual throwaway conversation. The same thing that might make people think the Buddha and Jesus knew each other because they both lived way back and wrote religious books, right dude?
Peter, if someone needs aid to visualize a horse, they are in trouble. An aardvark, maybe, an exotic species of insect, ok, but a horse? Again, LOWEST common Denominator thinking.
Peter: you wrote: 'I admit it may not have been clear that the real thrust of the question was “What would make her say this?”—which is a matter of technique (how, not what), insofar as she has no reason to come up with any name at all at this point. It’s not as if he’s said ‘Impressionist’ or ‘18th-century’ or even ‘Fauve’ or possibly ‘Mma…something’. In other words, pace what you say, this doesn’t in fact add to the realism and if it’s art it lacks craft. A ‘French painter’ could be Fragonard, Delacroix, Guérin, Cézanne, Renoir, Poussin, Vlaminck, or one of several dozen others that most of us have at least heard of. And then she comes up with a Belgian!' in regards to a mention of a painter with a French sounding name, when the truth is, the only stretch in the piece, that one might quibble with is that a vapid entertainment reporter might know the name of ANY serious painter, much less the ethnicity. Simply put, while it might be nice to live in a world where most folks would know that Napoleon and Magritte were not ethnic Frenchmen (although genetic genealogists might claim Belgians are mostly French), you are the one who is not thinking naturally. Not that it's not a good thing to know such factoids. I know many of them, and if my character was a sciolist or anal retentive, it might have been a good place to drop the mention, but not in that convo between those two.
I agree, and there is always a certain artifice in art, but realism is heightened by absurdities, offhand poesy, and the humor that comes in the mismatch of certain tendencies.
See last two emails. If you cannot see how almost every suggestion you have is a recipe for dumbing down, then what can I say? You think it's naturalism to have average people obsess over minutia of history or art. Life simply is not like that.
would disagree with the nebulous lacking fire, but when I showed some folks the
comments you appended, a number of people responded that even via your synopsis
the tale was intriguing. And why, as example, would I want to make it a play?
Novels add so much more via the internal musings that are lost via mere dialogue
neither Austen nor Dickens is in a league with Melville, Steinbeck, nor Proust.
They wrote melodrama; some good ones, but nothing great. Is David Copperfield in
a league with Huck Finn or The Idiot? Is Pride and Prejudice in a league with
The Grapes Of Wrath. It's always disappointing when people who have an ax to
grind against big presses or corporate policies (such as small vs. big presses
or indy bookstores vs. retail chains) do the exact same thing that they deplore
in others. Jess often sends her and my books around to agents and presses, and
even the biggies- Random House, Doubleday, and their affiliated agents, ask for
the same stuff in almost the same terms as you do. So, what raison d'etre is
there for an indy press that's only pushing the same stuff that HarperCollins
is? What your comments would do is turn a work of art into a Dan Brown thriller,
Easy to say this about people 100 years after the fact, but your comments on the book are almost identical to those published comments I've read in bios of said figures by those bowdlerizers. And, if you were thrown by that you'd hate reading my memoirs where I use ampersands, numbers, and many other devices, not to mention plopping poetry in the midst of prose. I create art, and I do not compromise for quicker publication. I could justify many of these devices and quirks, but, again, if you are having problems with whether Rheingold is spelt correctly (the second vowel in paired vowels in German are always pronounced) what success would I have? It's a bit like arguing with a Salonista about Monet's technique.
Peter, you state, No reason at all you should be trite. Then in the next reason you defend the triter phrasing: But this one doesn’t come off—it reeks of being different just for the sake of it—and anyway is not a place where avoiding triteness.
So nod is straightforward, but shook, shake, or shaken is not? Again, as with Magritte, even a dummy is not going to get thrown by such a simple word. But avoiding the cliche here is a bonus, which shows that the writer is actually aware of such. This is what kills almost all writing published, poetry or prose. And bad critics defend cliches with the same rationales you just used.
Main Entry: 1nod
Inflected Form(s): nod·ded; nod·ding
Etymology: Middle English nodden; perhaps akin to Old High German hnotōn to shake
Date: 14th century
verb 1 : to make a quick downward motion of the head whether
deliberately (as in expressing assent or salutation) or involuntarily (as from
2 : to incline or sway from the vertical as though ready to fall
3 : to bend or sway the upper part gently downward or forward : bob gently
4 : to make a slip or error in a moment of abstractiontransitive verb 1 : to incline (as the head) downward or forward
2 : to bring, invite, or send by a nod <nodded us in>
3 : to signify by a nod <nodded their approval>
— nod·der noun
Main Entry: 1shake
Inflected Form(s): shook \ˈshu̇k\; shak·en \ˈshā-kən\; shak·ing
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English sceacan; akin to Old Norse skaka to shake
Date: before 12th century
verb 1 : to move irregularly to and fro
2 : to vibrate especially as the result of a blow or shock
3 : to tremble as a result of physical or emotional disturbance <shook with fear>
4 : to experience a state of instability : totter
5 : to briskly move something to and fro or up and down especially in order to mix
6 : to clasp hands
7 : 3trilltransitive verb 1 : to brandish, wave, or flourish often in a threatening manner <protesters shaking their fists>
2 : to cause to move to and fro, up and down, or from side to side especially in a repetitive, rhythmic, or quick jerky manner <shook his head in disapproval>
3 : to cause to quake, quiver, or tremble
4 a : to free oneself from <shake a habit> <shake off a cold> b : to get away from : get rid of <can you shake your friend? I want to talk to you alone — Elmer Davis>
5 : to lessen the stability of : weaken <shake one's faith>
6 : to bring to a specified condition by or as if by repeated quick jerky movements <shook himself loose from the man's grasp>
7 : to dislodge or eject by quick jerky movements of the support or container <shook the dust from the cloth>
8 : to clasp (hands) in greeting or farewell or as a sign of goodwill
Peter: there are definitions that match. And I created no confusion, I used the less trite word I wanted. I said shook. You brought up nod. I wanted the characters to show they were not as bright as they thought via the Magritte mention. You missed that. It was not an error. Now, you may not LIKE that trope in their conversation, and you may LIKE the more trite cognate for shook, but then you are really objecting to what you would prefer, not what was written, just as you claim to not want to defend triteness, and in the next breath do. And, it's in your writing. This is not my claim.
Yes, I avoided the cliche with a perfectly legitimate word, describing a character shaking their head. I did not write floridly, I wrote naturally and non-tritely. In conversations, as example, I often let characters speak in cliches. But the narrator is different.
Vulcanize your soles for more bounce.
Needless to say, but this was the last I heard from Brookesmith. Again, a nice guy, but utterly clueless as to his limitations. And, yes, I will expand on this. It puts me again in the position of being the ‘bad guy’ to some, but I have found that if I just let something go with a little bit of explication and criticism, as in the above exchange, the masses of dumbed down, deliterate, PC and LCD morons claim I cannot prove my point, and if I do, then I’m a bully for piling on. But, in this case, revealing to full extent of Brookesmith’s editorial and critical lack is important and instructive for aspiring writers of any age. Ho!
Now, I will go over all the editorial comments Brookesmith appended to my manuscript, with generous selections of the writing the annotations are about, so to prove Brookesmith’s poor reading comprehension of quality writing. First, instead of just comments, he screwed up the formatting I used in my Word document, by indenting the paragraphs much farther than the standard two spaces I use (as seen in this essay and learnt in high school typing classes throughout last century). This reformatting made it difficult to compare and find the typos and proofreading errors noted. NOTE to publishers- a word to the wise, never do this, and never give reasons for a rejection, as those reasons are likely to often show up your own ignorance and limitations.
Now, a chronological listing of all of Brookesmith’s editorial comments (in bold), minus about two dozen or so obvious typos or obvious punctual errors, separated into their chapters:
It was not so much the words she uttered, as their tone, and the look in her eyes at their utterance, that bespoke all he needed to know. Then, she just stood there, for a good twenty, thirty, or more, seconds, as if to make sure her words registered. He stumbled for some reply, but had none, or if he did he long forgot it, and as Mary Lee was no better with conversation than he was, at the time, she just stood there. The two outcasts—the dwarf who pitied her, and the Amazon who was incensed by his pity, just stood by each other, until several minutes passed, and the bell ending recess rang. Mary Lee dashed off without a word, and Lem was relieved. The next day they acted as if the whole incident never happened, but Lem had resolved to never be at a loss for words again. It was this failure, rather than his awkward and failed attempt at words that stuck with him. [Doesn’t follow?]
Clearly, the failure that Brookesmith misses (perhaps because of a lack of a comma between words and stuck?) is Lem’s acting as if the incident never happened. It follows quite clearly, even sans a comma, with the slightest rumination. But, if this were the only sort of comment like this then one could let Brookesmith off the hook, and blame it on my punctual error. Failing that, it’s on him
Although he was never a scientist, he would sometimes take it upon himself to think of things like how the whole universe began. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he figured there had to be a reason for the way he was. What it was he could not surmise, but he figured there had to be a logical explanation behind it all. Things just did not happen. As he had long ago turned away from religion, he know the answer did not lie there, yet he was never satisfied with what he had read of science’s answer to the conundrum. After all, most of the things that he had read said that the cosmos had started in an infinitely dense fireball [date??], some twelve to twenty billion years ago.
See what I mean about Brookesmith’s poor reading comprehension? Literally….and I mean LITERALLY, he asks a query whose answer comes in the following seven words. Now, here was my original wording of a section:
and seeing that she was an attractive brunet woman of about thirty
It’s perfectly reasonable to want to drop the redundant woman, although, colloquially, people are often redundant. But it’s still better than Brookesmith’s rewrite:
and seeing that she was an attractive brunette
woman of about thirty
Note how the –ette version of brunet is used. If brunet woman is redundant, after the indicator that the person is a she, so is using the feminized version of brunet, for just using brunet should be sufficient. It’s not as if I wrote, There stood a brunette, whereas the form would indicate the sex. In this case, the pronoun she lets us know the brunet is female, making the –ette form redundant. So, if mine was a redundancy, Brookesmith’s is doubly redundant, and compounds my error. The difference was mine was a minor error in initial composition, and not the major one of a supposedly trained proofreader and editor specifically looking for such errors, only to compound them.
Then there is this:
There was a sense of self that the dwarf possessed that he knew that average people did not. It was not born of his stature, yet it did emanate from that essential thing that was his own person. That the two things were in no way connected was a difficult thing for most people to reconcile, but it was true nonetheless. He knew the reporter, a young woman, would feel it, and even though his physical presence would be considered repulsive to most normal people, there was something that he had—an aura or the like, which stood beside his physical demeanor and demanded, if not respect, certainly attention [This is the kind of thing that should be shown, not merely described].
Note the use of the show don’t tell cliché. In some matters this is so, but if one can tell well enough, by all means do so, for showing often leads to the unnecessary and overly long and rambling descriptions that infect MFA prose. And how, exactly, would someone show the effect of a physical demeanor, in words, if not by telling it? And, in fact, the book’s very title, Bit Of Golem, not only refers to the variations of the character’s names, but also that the whole book will be about conversation and telling- i.e.- telling a ‘bit’ about Golem (aka the self-made main character). Naturally, this whizzed over Brookesmith’s brow.
It was not as if she was a former film student, and had been granted an interview with a former hero nor idol of hers, but there was just something exhilarating in knowing that, of all the possible journalists he could have chosen to interview him, he chose her.
This is a thing Brookesmith is only partly guilty of. In modern parlance, the use of the conjunction nor is almost wholly dropped for the positive or. But, nor is still technically correct, as it is a continuation of the negative force started by not, earlier in the sentence. But, as he was such a stickler, earlier, and wrongly so, why he’s lax here is only his personal preference.
But here’s an example of laziness:
After her shower, Angelica Marksbury dressed and came down to the veranda where Bit Von Rheingold was sipping on some iced water. There was a vaguely atavistic bit of posing in how the dwarf sipped the water. It was perhaps sexual, but not blatantly so, and to state what she felt he was doing with her lips would have opened her up to charges of Freudian imbuement [Is there really such a word?].
He really asks me if imbuement is a word? What, they lack dictionaries and Google in the U.K.? Now, here the longest excerpt, so far:
He points to a table with several photographs of a woman that can only be the dwarf’s mother. She is an average to homely looking woman, and, judging by the wedding photograph, she was probably no taller than five feet—small, but not a dwarf. His father was not that much taller. He was a man of no distinguishing characteristics. The reporter recalled once interviewing a scholar on Thomas Jefferson, over the controversy of whether or not the third President of the United States had fathered children with his slave girl Sally Hemings. After a long convoluted answer that was basically, ‘most likely,’ the scholar went on to talk about how he did not think that it really mattered, for the truth was that most genealogists knew that there was a certain utter randomness in the assignment of genius or greatness to people. A man like Jefferson or Einstein or Picasso was no more likely to father a child or descendant of any stature equal to or surpassing himself than a plumber or bookmaker or mere housewife was. Of the three greats named, none had anyone approaching their stature before nor after them. The few lineages that disproved the rule—like the Adamses or Darwins, were just that, and one could legitimately argue whether or not either of the Adams Presidents approached the greatness that a Jefferson did, or whether or not Erasmus Darwin’s status as a thinker was anywhere near that of his grandson’s. But, she did not go off on to such tangents. Instead, she kept herself grounded more in the real. [So… why do we get this long, digressive, not at all relevant treatment, then?]
My word, what a dumb question. Clearly the reporter is cogitating and deciding not to argue with the dwarf. Also, why NOT go off into this? What she refuses to say is important, if she thinks it but does not want to engage another with it because of what she senses in him? In short, in this excerpt I do EXACTLY what Brookesmith wanted to see when he wanted to be shown, not told. What I am showing is the internal workings of a mind in relation to another mind. It also gives a sense of her character- that she would have such interesting and diverse thoughts spring from merely looking at a photo, and allows the omniscient narrator to have a presence, thus furthering the frames within frame device of the novel. Again, note how Brookesmith’s comments are in no way about anything qualitative, merely what he likes or dislikes; which is why so many books are so bad- because qualitative considerations are not forefront; personal likes are, despite Brookesmith’s denials.
The opened identity of ‘you’ is something that others must deal with
in whatever ways they can. Sometimes it is an easy thing to accomplish. Other
times it is not, for the self is too often a thing never displayed to others,
for fear of its rejection, by whatever standards others may deem. The reporter
was no different from most people in this regard. Angelica Marksbury was an
ambitious woman, as well, and this fact has always been problematic in human
societies. Combined with the natural hesitancy one has for their own being, this
can be a source of turmoil within. Yet, this had never seriously derailed her
career ambitions. She had scored the entrée into the world of a famous
filmmaker, Bit Von Rheingold, partly out of luck, but mostly out of the fact
that her physical presence had sexually aroused the dwarf. [Show, don’t say!]
This excerpt opens Chapter 3, and still Brookesmith cannot delve beyond cliché. He wants to be shown the dwarf’s boner (but how would one do that without stating it somehow?), and other things, except, as in the prior chapter, when he is shown something; then he does not like it, nor think it relevant. Can you say personal subjective aesthetics?
Her ploy to entice the dwarf did seem to work, for when the dwarf returned, after being a bit agitated when he left, she noticed that his eyes seemed to widen when he saw her long legs crossed, revealing even more of her thighs, and seductively arched calves, already enhanced by the heels she was wearing. He seemed to perk up, and be more responsive to the first few softball questions she tossed at him. They were of the usual sort, such as how he first got into filmmaking, who was his hero in the business, and what was the first film he ever saw. It should have come as little surprise to her that the dwarf told her the first film he ever saw was a double feature of The Three Stooges and a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and not something grand like a film of Eisenstein, nor something by Orson Welles. [Is the following reported speech? Is this what he says? If so, say so, or the PoV drifts] The dwarf was always a regular guy, albeit one with a flair for the higher things in life. He could appeal to the lunch pail crowd yet also attract the interest of artists and intellectuals who found him somewhat of a ‘primitive’, yet also one with a poetic and deft touch for handling social issues. He was dubbed, early in his career, in the 1960s, as sort of a bastard spawn between the New Wave filmmakers of Europe and the gritty Sam Fuller, the maverick American director who also was well known for his gritty low budget war films at the time. The dwarf reveled in such comparisons, although he ultimately rejected them- the Europeans as having lost too much touch with reality, and Fuller for being too derivative of even his own work, as well as not adding enough of the ‘higher’ elements into his work. Slowly, after sifting through the minefield of his ego, she worked her way into talking about his lovelife.
Now here is some really BAD reading comprehension. Brookesmith asks if the following is reported speech and if there is a point of view drift. Now, read the whole, and it’s clearly an omniscient narrator, as in the rest of the book. When the dwarf is speaking it is phrased something like this: ‘the dwarf told her.’ Clearly this is reportage by the narrator, not the dwarf speaking. There clearly is no drift of point of view, just a drift of Brookesmith’s attention, something the engaging writing is not responsible for.
I mean, again, I’m not preaching, but, given my fortune made in the skin trade, of course I see the need for a moiré [Do you more ‘more’? If not, what is the word supposed to mean in this context?] adult approach to sex to be taken.
Is not this an obvious typo? If nothing else it shows him equally capable of making little errors as huge ones.
The lonely parts of thunderstorms always seem to invite the eye to imbue [here meaning?—or “imbue them with”?] the dim outlines of gray on gray.
Another troubling chapter start for Brookesmith. I guess dictionaries are still missing from the U.K.? Ugh!
With that, he shot Angelica a sly grin, then winked his right eye. The
reporter did not know what to make of the little man. He was enigmatic, but
a real way, not in the way that some men try to put faux mysteries ahead of
their banal realities. Was he telling her the truth, or merely using her to
rewrite history? Whichever it was, the reporter was left without an adequate
response, and she was tiring of her own failures in this regard. The dwarf
seemed to sense that he had flummoxed her, yet again, for his lips drew together
into a single dark line, one whose ends remained perfectly horizontal,
emotionless, despite the humor he had in abundance. He breathed deeply, then
planted himself onto one of his sofas, as if he knew there was not much he could
continue with, save for resuming [?
Word or phrase missing?] what remained of the day, and letting his tales
burst forth like stumbling bums off of buses, men who had no idea where they
came from, nor what their destinations were.
So let’s look at the two edits here. One might say scratching out ‘in a real way’ is good, and that stating ‘but not in the way that some men try to put faux mysteries ahead of their banal realities,’ would be fine. But, when the whole sentence reads ‘He was enigmatic, but not in the way that some men try to put faux mysteries ahead of their banal realities,’ it leaves the unanswered, then in what way is he enigmatic? There are many possible ways, and my ‘in a real way’ answers the question that, had I originally not written, Brookesmith would doubtlessly have asked for clarification of. So, if I leave some things open, Brookesmith wants more. If I specify something, Brookesmith wants less. Again, wholly subjective criticism, with no reasoning behind it. As for my reasoning for the specification, if one reads the book till the end, it becomes clear that I am painting the dwarf as a man of principles, albeit sometimes only to principles coherent to himself. I want the readers to know the dwarf has no illusions about life nor himself. Then Brookesmith stumbles over the word resuming. Now, if one removes the word, then the verbal preposition continue with makes no sense. And, behind all this one is supposed to believe that these are coming from a professional editor. Sheesh!
Lemme see, was Freddy doing Roma then—between doing young men, you know? I think Mikey was doing Zabriskie Point, or maybe it was Blowup. That guy got more pussy than the ASPCA. Well, whichever film—who knows? It doesn’t really matter. Details are for historians, they don’t necessarily make or break a story. Now there’s something you may wanna quote, Angie, because too many people get caught up in trying to recreate some past era or the like, rather than just suggesting it. I mean, think of that French painter, what’s his name?’
‘Magritte?’ [|What would make her say this? Esp. as Magritte was Belgian?]
‘Yeah, yeah. Just look at how simple his paintings were—just a few strokes here and there, and he could convey the whole outline of a scene.’
‘Oh, I think you mean Matisse, not Magritte.’
‘Really?’ said the dwarf.
‘Yes, Magritte was the painter who painted a pipe and wrote, ‘This is not a pipe,’ or something like that. He also painted a giant rock floating in the air, with a castle on it.’
‘Ok, yeah. So you’re right. It wasn’t Magritte, but Matisse then. He was the guy whose paintings were simple and colorful?’
This was one of the edits mentioned in the posted email exchange. Seeing it in a wider context makes Brookesmith’s remarks even more ridiculous, since, clearly, it is part of a larger thrust wherein the reporter mistakes Matisse’s work for Magritte’s; another element of realism that Brookesmith whiffs on.
‘As for Mischa? Well, as you know, she was one of those Abstract Expressionist painters—or thought she was. Now, I have little regard for most of them because they were last artists [meaning?]. They were far more interested in celebrity than art, in my opinion. She knew Pollock and De Kooning and that whole crowd. She was all into that really dense sort of pseudo-philosophy, the kind that Clem Greenberg spewed all the time—now there was an idiot for you.
Here is another example of Brookesmith’s laziness, and his refusal to read the sentences following a point that sticks in his mind, for they almost always clarify- even if Brookesmith does not want that. In this example, the phrase ‘last artists,; as in their not being ‘artists first,’ but ‘artists last,’ is explained as their being far more interested in celebrity. I mean. C’mon, the very first words AFTER his comment contain the answer.
The dwarf had mentioned, in passing, something about ‘the cube root of
time.’ The reporter could not recall what context he had used the term, or
when, specifically, but the whole concept of it had ground itself into her mind
and would not move. The very notion of a mathematical formulation of events
intrigued her, for algebra had always been one of her favorite subjects in high
school, and had she not been entranced by the magical force of words on others a
career in numbers may have been for her. Yet, the phrase disappeared
whence it emerged, as so many other things do in life, and, after Angelica
Marksbury and the dwarf finished their pasta supper, they retired to the living
room, where the dwarf pulled out some old vinyl LPs and decided to put on some
music in the background. It was some Erik Satie piano pieces. Almost immediately
a strange languor seemed to inflict itself on the dwarf. How this was able to
achieve what she had been attempting to do with her comforting words, in so
short a time, was one of those things attributable only to music’s subliminal
power. It took a minute or two, but Angelica recognized one of the tunes.
Another chapter start that troubles Brookesmith. Yet, in looking up the
definition of whence, one gets this: Usage Note: The
construction from whence has been criticized as redundant since the 18th
century. It is true that whence incorporates the sense of from: a remote
village, whence little news reached the wider world. But from whence has been
used steadily by reputable writers since the 14th century, most notably in the
King James Bible: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence
cometh my help" (Psalms). Such a respectable precedent makes it difficult
to label the construction as incorrect. Also, if one Googles one finds this:
Objectors to from whence have support in logic, but logic doesn’t feature
much in English constructions, especially idioms, which is how one perhaps
should regard the phrase these days. One newspaper archive I consulted, hardly
comprehensive, contained more than 250 cases of from whence just in 2004. It
succeeds because it is informal and colloquial compared with whence used alone,
a construction that is unusual enough to force readers to stop and work out the
even a brief look at historical sources shows that from whence has been common
since the thirteenth century. It has been used by Shakespeare, Defoe (in the
opening of Robinson Crusoe:
“He got a good estate by merchandise, and leaving off his trade, lived
afterwards at York; from whence he had married my mother”), Smollett, Dickens
(in A Christmas Carol:
“He began to think that the source and secret of this ghostly light might be
in the adjoining room, from whence, on further tracing it, it seemed to
shine”), Dryden, Gibbon, Twain (in Innocents
Abroad: “He traveled all around, till at last he came to the
place from whence he started”), and Trollope, and it appears 27 times in the
King James Bible (including Psalm 121: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the
hills, from whence cometh my help”).
Though Dr Johnson objected to it in his Dictionary of 1755, calling it “A vicious mode of speech” (he meant it was reprehensible, not depraved or savage), most objections to it are no earlier than the twentieth century. One reason may be that its critics are unaware of its long pedigree.
And, the truth is, that in almost all modern uses of the word whence, the preposition from precedes it. In short, Brookesmith again tries to insert his personal aesthetics, rather than retaining the novel’s aesthetics. Since aesthetics are subjective this is a no-no. As for why Brookesmith would cross out the good explicative writing that gives a sense of the reporter’s frustration, is not even commented upon. By removing it, Brookesmith again removes information that paints a deeper portrait of the reporter.
‘There are exceptions, of course. But, the whole idea of morals is so straightjacketing. Of course, I’m not advocating wanton murder, and people know that. Things like rape or murder are beyond morals and just plain old gut human ethics.
Since this is multiple times that Brookesmith has harped on a word, presumably because he refuses to look it up, I think I will simply reply to all such instances with the term ‘third base,’ referencing the old Abbot And Costello gag wherein that term referenced itself back to the same old answer. Here goes: ‘straightjacketing’? Third base!
Herein a longer excerpt, which again (third base, deux?) shows how poor a reader Brookesmith is:
Without warning, and with his usual abruptness, the dwarf told her that he was retiring for the evening. He told her she was free to watch any of his many DVDs. He had all the classic films by the masters—foreign and domestic, and many other films, as well. If not, he told her she could entertain herself as she would, but not to make too much noise. In the way he spoke the words she got the idea that he was hoping that she would masturbate, and she wondered if he had peepholes carved in her room, or perhaps a surveillance camera? For a while after he left her, all she did was sit alone in the dark, and think about all that was said that day, and that there were things she needed to elicit from her subject to make her story on him and interview have real appeal, broader appeal to the masses. So far, she had only skimmed the proverbial surface, and while that could be a solid story for the magazine, no one would ever read it a second time, and she did not want to write yet another celebrity bio piece that anyone else could have penned. What was the point? She knew that there had to be more to the man than what she was getting at. How does one become a living legend, after all, as trite and overused as that term may be? In the dwarf’s case, though, it was true. And he had only heightened the increase in his life and work with his decade away from the spotlight and his seclusion from the world.
A similar sort of cult following had grown up about the former tv talk show host Johnny Carson, after he ended his thirty year run on television. The two men, who only met a few times when the dwarf appeared on The Tonight Show, had parallel careers of [a] sort. Both became well known in the early 1960s, and both ended their public careers in the early 1990s. Both men were known as hard drinkers, and both had been married more than once, and been notorious womanizers. Yet, Carson was as mainstream Middle America as any celebrity could get, whereas the dwarf was always an outsider. Both had amassed vast fortunes by owning the rights to their own works, and both had distanced themselves personally from many of the people they had been close with in their earlier lives. Angelica had tried, early on in her career, to snag an interview with Carson, and thought she had landed the rights. But, after a bit of negotiating, Carson decided to kybosh the interview. He was the other celebrity that she had longed to query. So, when the opportunity to interview the dwarf came up, she decided to pursue it at all costs. While Carson’s interview may have had more immediate impact, she knew the dwarf was likely to last longer in the American psyche, because films have an eternal quality about them, whereas television, especially interviews and news shows, go easily out of date, even within a few years, much less decades or centuries.
With all this in her mind, Angelica walked over to the window, and the sliding doors. She peered out of them for the longest time, even after turning out all the lights [but a moment ago she was sitting in the dark] to reduce the glare. She found herself amazed by how dark the primitive landscape was. There was no moon out, it was slightly overcast, and there was not a streetlamp to be seen. Having grown up a city girl Angelica had almost come to believe that the night had a remanent neon glow to it. It was dark, but never too dark. This darkness was utter lack of definition, although, after a few minutes her eyes adjusted to the dim starlight that poked through some of the clouds, and the faint outline of mountains and hills in the distance seemed to take shape. Perhaps it was because of a noise she heard, or because of some other sense that she was not alone, but she decided to open one of the doors, and head out for some fresh air.
Now, there are three comments here. The first was a typo, the omission of the article a. The third is obviously Brookesmith’s wonder at the word remanent. Let’s dispose of that: third base! As for the second, Brookesmith claims that when I write, ‘Angelica walked over to the window, and the sliding doors. She peered out of them for the longest time, even after turning out all the lights,’ that she had been sitting in the dark. Yet, this is clearly false. Just two paragraphs earlier, in the last physical description before the mention of her turning out the lights, I wrote: For a while after he left her, all she did was sit alone in the dark, and think about all that was said that day. Note it clearly says she was alone in the dark ‘for a while’. This implies that the darkness ended, meaning she had turned on the lights, at some point. Therefore, the lights are clearly on for her to turn out. This shows that little more than a paragraph’s separation between physical description is enough to throw Brookesmith, or any other bad reader.
Excelsior!, or not:
And, as a reporter, she had gotten used to absenting herself from a tale—any tale she was reading or that she was writing, so she could be as objective as possible. But the overwhelm of what senses like smell and sight could provide surfeited [when did ‘surfeit’ become a verb?] her will to resist. In the night that she encountered, Angelica Marksbury could only be grateful for her ability to appreciate it, knowing that that, in and of itself, was something that few others, these days, could do, even if that acknowledgement brought her no comfort.
Two points to be made: in the first case I am neologizing a verb to a noun; although, truthfully, I am not the first to use this form of the word, and second, regarding surfeit as a verb: THIRD BASE! In fact, the comment on surfeit ignores the fact that it was first used as a verb meaning to feed or supply to excess, satiety, or disgust; then became a noun, sort of like I just did with overwhelm!
Still, there remained the task of getting at her subject from the inside out. She felt as if there had to be a way to force such a thing out of him, as if [it were] a follicle of hair that needed to be freed from a scalp too bald and uncaring to let hair ruin its view on the cosmos. Yet, she wanted to fill her story with a fresh head of hair, or some other metaphor that better fit her desire to explore more deeply into her subject.
This may be the most bizarre redaction, for the excess word adds absolutely nothing, and in fact muddles the clarity of the sentence, and makes a startling metaphor a rather mediocre simile.
Every morning begins with a new past, a fresher perspective, and a long night of sleep seemed to do the dwarf well, for he seemed far fresher this day than he had been the day before, yet as she came down for breakfast, after a shower, Angelica Marksbury felt a bit ill at ease. It was the kind of queasiness that does not affect the body as much as it does the spirit. Perhaps it was pangs of guilt for prying into another human being’s life? But, each step she took seemed to alleviate such emotions. First off, she felt that she would have to be less Kid Gloves in her approach to questioning the dwarf—if not downright aggressive, by pushing his buttons, to try to get him to slipup, and reveal some ‘deep, dark secret,’ of the sort that a book could be based on. She was starting to feel empathy for her subject, and that’s always a bad thing, [she thought] as it can easily lead to schmaltziness, and bad writing. She needed to retain her objectivity, and to do so she needed to be tougher in her approach.
Another chapter start that throws Brookesmith. Why? Three redactions: the first is questioning a phrase- third base! The second a simple typo- no space between slip and up. The third is another puzzler. Is Brookesmith stating that the phrase she thought should be inserted where he places it? If so, it makes no sense, and adds nothing.
To put things in context she focused simply on her job. She was a reporter, and the facts of a story were more important than the emotions of either the subject or its writer. The key to the dwarf’s life, she felt, was the so called ‘Burroughs incident’ down in Mexico, where the dwarf had been accused of attempting to murder his soon to be ex-wife, the B film actress Aida Garcia. But, she also knew that there were many ways she had to provoke the dwarf into opening up and spilling his guts. She would give all of them a try. After all, he would soon be dead, and she felt that using him to advance her career a bit was something that the dwarf would have done in her place in a heartbeat. As she sat down, and was told that omelets and pancakes were on the menu for breakfast, Bit Von Rheingold looked over at her and asked her if she liked her room. The question was spoken with a wry but detached sardonism [“sardonicism”—but that’s still a pretty hideous word] that would seem apt only if he had, indeed, been watching her shower nakedly, and probably masturbating over her. The crooked line of his lips was neither a smile nor a grimace, as he fixed his gaze at her. She could not decipher its meaning, so let it slide by.
Sardonism is a word, and better than the needless adjectival suffix –ic of sardonicism. Third base.
Then this one from earlier:
The reporter shook her head
affirmatively. [Don’t people usually nod
Brookesmith is correct that nodding is done affirmatively, which is why
the use of nodding would be redundant (recall where earlier Brookesmith was
against redundancies but here is for them), plus nod is a more trite word,
whereas shook leaves one with a more vigorous image of assent.
I think it says alot of the DOA that they prefer such a demeaning term as dwarf to a more noble and accurate one like midget.
Here is one of those instances where my personal preference comes in. I prefer the one word form of alot to a lot. It’s for several good reasons. First is that a lot is a specific amount or measurement, in assorted business, first or foremost, whose meaning then evolved to become unspecified, whereas alot always refers to an amorphous amount. And like already and alright, which began as two words, all ready and all right, alot will become first accepted as a word on its own, in the dictionaries, and then displace a lot in most texts, which is actually happening, and been so for several decades. So, yet again, Brookesmith lets a personal bias infect his criticism. Third base- oh, wait! Maybe just second base, this time.
Well, I’ve done that too, especially when I’m casting for films. I’d go and watch people in crowded areas, and look for certain ‘types’ I wanted in my films. I would take notes of the smallest details, etc., and then use them as details when I wrote a screenplay. Well, anyway, sometimes if a person would really interest me I would have one of my assistants go up with a clipboard and paper and pretend to be taking a survey for some group, and he would ask questions about the person—name, age, religion, political views, what they did for a living, where they worked, whether they were married with kids, etc. Well, I would always write down things I felt about that person from my gut, and I can tell you that probably nine times out of ten I was about ninety percent [tautology—deliberate?] right about the person. I could tell whether they were liberal or conservative, whether they were teachers or lawyers, etc. It was both amazing and sad, because I wanted to be wrong. But, the truth is that prejudices are far more often confirmed than not. Now, I don’t mean in the broad sense of racial or ethnic groups, but in looking at how an individual presents himself to the world one can gauge the sort of beliefs and ideals he or she holds. I swear, one of these days, after I’m dead, people will look through these notes I took and be amazed and saddened, as well.’
Herein Brookesmith tries to show off his vocabulary, but only shows he’s still a poor reader. The statement clearly means that 90% of the time he was 90% right about folks. It’s not a tautology at all. And it’s pretty damned clear.
‘Yeah, and all that jazz about them having no reason to live, and all? Well, I don’t go that far, but the way the song describes reactions to them is how I feel. I feel that way when I look in the mirror too, but that’s not self-hatred, just a visceral reaction. It’s primal, and to deny that would be to sublimate truth. Now, I’m not one of those PC liars who fake like they give a damn about truth, but it does have import. To not acknowledge the most obvious things is wrong. It makes one sublimate reality. I won’t do that. I refuse to be a party to such.’
‘But, didn’t you make the comment about?’ [about what?]
‘Yes, yes, that comment in Time magazine, about being pro-euthanasia?’
Now look at this. Does Brookesmith NEVER read the next few words before he types an idiotic comment? Does he not realize how foolish he seems? Hello! (loud echoic reverbs heard)
The dwarf puts his hands in his pants pockets, and walks out of the room. There seems to be something unsaid in the way he approached the end of her sight. [=?] The reporter just stays where she is sitting.
Is there anything remotely obscure about this phrasing. He approaches the end of where she can see him, meaning he is moving away, although it is phrased in a non-trite manner.
Yet, here he had gone and done an act- the building of The Manse, which
seemed to belie his personal swagger and claims of openness. He was a
self-admitted sex fiend, hated other dwarves- to the point of constantly
referring to himself as a midget, even if he was technically not one, and seemed
to also be a self-loathing Jew. That last fact would not be obvious to all, but
there were little hints of it
that were not made known so much in
what he said, but how his face reacted whenever he was confronted with his
Judaism. [Do you mean ‘Judaism’ (religion) or ‘Jewishness’ (race)?] But,
the thing that needed to be gotten to the bottom of was the fact that he had
attempted to murder his first wife, Aida Garcia—a B film actress of little
renown, back in 1962, in a shabby Mexican hotel out in the middle of nowhere.
This was key to the mystery of the man. To a certain degree, Angelica felt it
was all a bit foolish—that the idea that a single incident could contain
within it all the nuances and gravitas of a person seemed so much like a soap
opera. Yet, there was a thing that was hidden. It had to be about that incident.
Yes, the man might actually be proud of his perversions, but if he had tried to
violate another human being, surely there would be something in his conscience
that was revulsed?
As for the crossed out words, why? Perhaps one could argue the brevity counters the loss of specificity, but then we get the question re: Judaism. Third base. If one looks up the term it’s clear that the term can mean either the religion or ethnic group. And, given the context of the usage, it’s clear that either one or both can be used and meant.
For two days she had tried to get the man to open up, spill his guts on
his private life, and fill her in on the details of that day, but he had
successfully sidestepped all of her best efforts. In the past, her other
subjects had opened up to her with a mere flirtation. If not, a night of crazy
sex would usually loosen them up, if but for no other reason than as a payment
for services rendered. Her use of her body and sexual wiles was not something
that she was particularly proud of, but she was not ashamed of using her assets
ir full est,
either. She decided to take a new tack as they sat down for lunch. She would
play the analytical game, and ask him about his childhood. Yes, it was seemingly
trite, but because it was so obvious she thought it might lull him into some
This is possibly the most absurd edit suggested. Brookesmith prefers the full to their fullest. The full simply makes no logical sense in this sentence.
And this isn’t even mentioning the development of culture and written language, which itself was a huge leap forward because it meant that we were not dependent upon knowing everything in our brains, or for ourselves. There was a communal storehouse of knowledge that could be tapped into. Then, you have the factor of having to line up all of your ancestors meeting under highly unusual individual circumstances, at times, just to produce the next generation that would produce the next and the next until you and I arrived here. It would seem an almost impossible thing to achieve. Especially when, in our own lives, you think of all the small things that had to fall into place for us to meet. What compelled you to become a writer, a journalist, to work at the places you did? What would be different if you had married the first boy you fell in love with? If you had listened to your mom when she wanted you to become a nurse, like she is—or whatever profession she’s in. And me, we’ve been going over many of the vagaries that brought me here. But, what if just one of them had changed? One single event, thirty years or more ago could mean that I’m not who I am, and you’re off interviewing Mick Jagger or someone else, instead of me?’ [• See Notes]
‘Well, I did interview Jagger, and frankly, he’s not nearly as interesting nor intelligent as you.’
‘And you probably told him the same thing.’
Ok, we’ll look at this once we get to the PDF files with extended notes [Note- this is NOT picked up in the PDF file notes].
‘No, people like to call others pessimistic when they hold up a mirror to a situation. Think of how much better off society would be if all of the best thinkers in the past had been listened to. Less [fewer] wars, less greed. less starvation, less bigotry, less persecution. Yet, all of that is still around. In some places it’s worse than ever while in others it’s far better. But, shouldn’t we have eradicated it by now. I mean, we are in the Twenty-First Century, after all. Am I really expecting too much of humanity?
Here is another of the illogical grammar rules that proscribe something that needs no proscription, like split infinitives. Traditionally, less is used for non-specific amounts and fewer for specific amounts. So, this edit shows Brookesmith’s ignorance in a two-fold manner. First, less is the correct term to use with nebulous things, like wars, greed, and starvation, etc. so Brookesmith does not even understand the rule. But, no one follows the rule because it makes no real logical sense, and while the term fewer has generally not expanded outward in its usage for non-specific things, less certainly has expanded, and greatly so, into the specific; although, again, it’s not applicable here. The third thing that makes this comment ill timed and placed is that the dwarf is speaking colloquially. When doing realistic conversation, the ignorance of grammatical rules is acceptable. So, even if Brookesmith had been using a logical and sane grammar rule, and been using it correctly, it still would not apply in this case. So, the lesson is if one chooses to be a grammar nazi, at least know contemporary grammar. Ok?
‘Well, simply put, they’re wrong, and I think if you look at their reviews, over the years, they have certain biases which have blinded them to some of the greatest films ever made. You know, it’s damn easy to sit back and write a twenty greatest films list, especially when most of the films are decades old. Do you think The Bicycle Thief [Check—I think this was The Bicycle Thieves] or Citizen Kane were hailed as masterpieces in their day? No. The former was seen as a slight, if agreeable tale, and the latter as a piece of self-indulgent swill that proved that Welles- the boy genius- was full of hot air. Now, of course, both regularly are considered amongst the greatest films ever made.
Well, I guess grammar deliteracy is not enough; filmic illiteracy needs to be attested to. Ladri Di Biciclette is the film’s Italian title, which literally translates to Bicycle Thieves, but the film was marketed in Great Britain and the U.S. under the title The Bicycle Thief, since the English language title did not give away the ending that there were, indeed, two bicycle thieves in the film, thus forcing the viewer to ruminate on the two thieves, and their similarities and differences. In short, it’s a picayune point that displays, yet again, a lack of knowledge. On a side note it is one of the few instances where a title change, by someone not the director, actually worked in the artist’s favor, the other example that comes to mind is Akira Kurosawa’s High And Low, whose literal translation should be Heaven And Hell (far more trite and inappropriate).
Then there is this gem:
This is, for better or worse, the way it always is with films and all art. Whitman couldn’t get his first edition [Well, he didn’t publish the second edition first, did he?] of Leaves Of Grass published. Why? Because third rate quatrains were all the rage with the poetry loving public of the day.
Now, perhaps one can write this off as small press hubris, but everyone knows that Whitman subsidy published the first edition of Leaves Of Grass, and non-subsidy presses have NEVER considered subsidy presses real publication. Any writer or artist knows this is what is referred to as being published. Again, this is colloquial speech. And, again, Brookesmith swings and misses.
She had once interviewed Tom Cruise in Mexico and after his third margarita he was out cold while she was still chugging along. Despite the dwarf’s boastfulness of drinking binges with the likes of Orson Welles, Sam Peckinpah, and George Romero, she had little doubt that it would take just the slightest bit of loosening up for her to get the scoop she so desired. She had no ethical qualms in such slight [sleight?] of drink. It was an old routine practiced by the masters. After all, there had been several other interviews she had done with male movie stars and rock stars, where they deliberately tried to fill her with drink so they could fill her pants with them. Yet, she had always resisted. There was even one time when she was hit on by a noted female tv talk show host, at her home, where she thought her drink had been spiked with Spanish Fly. This time, though, she would be the plier and the dwarf would be her target, not the other way around.
Herein a deliberate play on words. If heard, one might think it is just sleight of drink (as in sleight of hand), but reading it clearly connotes it to the earlier portion of the sentence, where the term slightest is used. In this regard, slight of drink is a play off of that set up context.
Here now another long excerpt:
As the dwarf got drunker and drunker, his world all became the present tense. People who were long dead seemed to fill his gaze with immediate red. His fingers started to contract and loosen without his realizing it. His lips gnarled up and thinned out with rages that had probably not been revisited for years. Whether or not the stream of names that poured forth from his mouth were those of lovers, childhood friends, business rivals, or whomever, none of it seemed to matter the provenance, for all were equally reviled. There was no past that he held on to as if something detached from the center of his moment. It all played out in front of his eyes and it was all rank. Decades slid away with each sip, and another reality slid in. He was not only in The Manse with Angelica, but he was in barroom brawls, nasty contract negotiations, his wives’ beds, commiserating over some failure to perform either sexually or contractually. Through it all, the reporter in Angelica Marksbury started slowly peeling away the flesh of denial that had hardened into the callus of the man who drank his ire to dust. She started slowly working her way back to that Mexican hotel room, where the dwarf had allegedly tried to strangle his first wife to death. She already knew what had really happened- she was a woman, after all, but only needed him to confirm it- even if drunkenly, and on tape, so that he could not sue the magazine.
He had been enraged at his first wife. Given his stature, this rage was in directly opposite proportion to his lack compared to other men. She had been caught with other men, on more than several occasions. She had laughed at him, mocked his size and sexual lack. It was not difficult to imagine the scenario. He had played the cuckolded but forgiving spouse, tightened the purse strings, and gotten Aida to do whatever disgusting and perverse things slaked his stunted animality. He had called her a whore, and wrapped his bulgy little digits about her throat, even as he pretended that it was all a game- an erotic one that others indulged in. He wanted to kill her and rape her and make love to her all at once. There was a part of him that was still the man in love, the husband who worshiped the beautiful young woman that took pity on him. He never figured he’d be able to go through with it emotionally; much less physically impose his will on his larger life partner, but he did, because a part of her wanted to suffer, to be made a whore, as well. It was all part of that macho Latino culture that demeaned and debased women. She wanted pain because she was raised to receive it, and enjoy it, and now this gringo dwarf, this half of a man that she was constantly cuckolding with teenaged boys and construction workers, was trying to do her in, like a real man, finally, and a part of her thrilled at his discovery of sheer brute violence. For the first actual time she found herself sexually moistened by his raging tiny presence, and wanted to feel his misshapen penis pounding away inside of her. She wanted to be fucked brutally even as he tried to kill her with his bare little hands. This was a Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer novel that she had read about, or would read, or wanted to read. Slap me, and quote me some bad poetry, was what was running through her mind. This was Pulp Fiction in reality, and the reality of the tale would send her career soaring, she thought, for there was no way she would not survive it. She was young, beautiful, and immortal. And, because of James Dean, she knew the young and beautiful were never lost to time completely. [If this is Angelica’s surmise/fantasy and not what he says (which it seems to be), it should be made clear]
Yet again the man displays a total lack of reading comprehension. Early on I state, ‘He was not only in The Manse with Angelica, but he was in barroom brawls, nasty contract negotiations, his wives’ beds, commiserating over some failure to perform either sexually or contractually.’ Clearly, this may be the dwarf’s mind, the reporter’s, or the dwarf’s first wife, or perhaps all of them and more. It is deliberately ambiguous, for the novel’s denouement depends on this ambiguity. Yet, again, Brookesmith needs to be spoonfed everything. But, even just reading this excerpt, apart and aside from the rest of the novel, clearly the ambiguity of whose thoughts these are heightens the moment. Of course, one must be able to read well to get this.
The dwarf started looking at his hands, antsily, as if they would somehow
betray him in some manner. He stood up, and then walked over to a credenza that
had many photographs on it. He picked up the one that was of Aida. His back was
her Angelique, but she
could tell he was smiling, even though, when he turned around, there was not a
hint of joy in his mien. He looked at her, then turned the photograph about so
the reporter could see that it was, indeed, Aida. His small right index finger
traced over her outline, and he turned his back to her, again. He moved away
from them, and it did not seem that they had much of an effect on him, for he
only peered off into the one corner of the room that was empty. The reporter
thought it reminded her of a Vermeer, but said nothing.
Two errors by Brookesmith here- 1) the reporter’s name is Angelica, not Angelique, and 2) there is no need to specify Angelica’s name, since she is clearly the person being spoken with throughout the novel, and the photo of Aida, the dwarf’s ex-wife, is mentioned as a photograph, therefore the her that is crossed out by Brookesmith could logically only be referring to Angelica, not Aida.
Words have a way of taking control of reality. They are abstract things, but at their utterance they locus lives and actions like nothing else can. This is why marriages have ended, and lives have been lost, at the utterance of mere abstractions. There is the idea that the moment of change is the only poem, but such change can only be delineated by the acknowledgement between rational beings, and their mode of acknowledgement is the word. [Awkward. This needs to be stated more simply] The word is the poem and the poem is the word, yet even a notice of such beauty still means nothing to the vast majority of people who experience it. Yet, as the dwarf got drunker and drunker he seemed to want to open up more and more about his past. Yet, it was things that Angelica knew would not necessarily provide her with a scorching bestseller.
Yet another chapter start vexes Brookesmith. What now? 1) I dare to use the noun locus as a verb, as in to center something. Shocking! 2) Given the trouble that Brookesmith has had with simple words, does his claim about needing something stated more simply lend itself to anything but a guffaw? 3) there is absolutely nothing grammatically wrong nor unclear about the third bolded phrase. Can I toss in a third base again?
It was as if he took a very Darwinian view of life, and both loathed his own state, yet joyed in [‘took joy in’] his accomplishments despite his handicaps.
To joy is a verb. Period. Let Brookesmith look it up.
And, while he might not really be a Little Hitler, she felt that there was a callus streak to him that would shock many of the people he claimed as friends and intimates.
This was merely a typo, and one corrected automatically by my Word’s spell check function.
In his attempts to be larger than life he was obviously overcompensating for his own feelings of insignificance. He was not alone in this dilemma, but it made it none the less true. Was Bit Von Rheingold a small parody of a man? Was he an archetypal Napoleon complected [what a nasty word, even if it is in the dictionary—although there it specifically refers to complexion/skin colour] little man? Was he someone who could just never connect with anyone else, thereby doomed to live in his own fantasies? But, if he was, did this make him all the more like most other human beings? Were all people connected most deeply by their flaws and insecurities? She had tried to dig into the most scandalous aspects of his life, but found only the charge of attempting to murder his ex-wife semi-plausible, as all the other things leveled against him to be borne of jealousy—professional or otherwise. Yet, despite her belief that he had, indeed, tried to murder his ex-wife, the fact was that he simply was not going to admit anything, even at this late date in his life. There was nothing left there, she concluded, save vintage era scandal sheets trying to concoct a story. Yes, perhaps he did have a moment of rage, but Angelica knew that she [had] often got into physical altercations with some of the men in her past, so it was not unreasonable o assume that he had done so, too. It didn’t make him a monster. Ironically, it made him all the more normal, if not likeable.
Hurrah, Brookesmith finally goes to a dictionary! Had he looked further he’d have noted that complected started as an American neologism for complexioned. All I’ve done is expanded the neologism from the exterior to the interior mind, for complexed. It is the psychological extension of the mere physical manifestation. Forgive me for being innovative. And, actually, I think the word is far more apt and as melodious as either complexed or complexioned. Brookesmith’s objection is thereby wholly subjective, and since he’s not the author, irrelevant. Neologisms are only good if they are better than existing words and here, even the new meaning new can be discerned, contextually. In short, it is the perfect sort of neologism. The addition of had is redundant, though, since the past tense is already established. The lack of a t by the o, to make to, is a typo.
So, content that she had missed out on something deep and profound, and, in fact, rethinking her whole premise of writing his biography, she decided to just let him blather on about whatever struck him. Perhaps there would be gold mined from the detritus. After all, she had lathered him up, so to speak, and he was the sort of man who seemed to prime himself anytime he was in the limelight. She yawned as she plied the dwarf with assorted questions on various celebrities he had worked with, different women he had known, carnally and otherwise. It was the usual sort of dross that a Barbara Walters would try to ask her celebrity interviewees, but which Angelica always tried to avoid. Yet, with sleep’s infliction, she had little energy to rise above the lowest common denominator crap that the public craved. As the tones of the dwarf’s relentless voice crested over her a peacefulness came over the reporter, and before she realized it all she was half-asleep, even as her tape recorder ran on. After all this time with him she felt no desire to cover up her boredom. Drink does that to a person. Besides, he was impotent to try and do anything with her, and she was not concerned in the least, as the rhythms of his memories—or were they really fantasies?—washed over her static gaze.
Is the bolded really something anyone with reasonable intelligence cannot understand? Third base! I just hadda say it!
Like I said before, most women just like to talk to talk, and hear ambient sound. Not Mischa. She was an intellectual’s wet dream. If there was a subject to be discussed, she had an opinion on it. It might not be the best or most well [best] informed opinion, but she would state it sans that sort of faux humility so many phonies wear with their smiles.
Yet more nonsense. To talk to talk is perfectly correct. The character is clearly stating that females like to talk for talking’s sake, not to communicate. That this is bolded is curious since, even Word’s grammar algorithms did not underline it. The insertion of a second best is another grammatical sort of rule that 1) is silly and not based in universally applicable logic, and 2) even if it were, is inapplicable here, as well is deemed the ‘proper’ usage, here. When someone is up on a subject he or she is usually called well informed, not better informed, and the superlative of well is most well. So, yet again, Brooksmith shows his cluelessness and personal bias in misconstruing grammar rules that are silly, even when properly understood.
You get stuck into cycles, repetitions, and things just go as they go. This image that I got in the dream is one of those things. I mean, it’s very dark and very cold. There’s a nip in the air. Yet somewhere beyond the darkness I can see and smell the lava. But, it’s the generic sort of scene, like from Junior High School films you’d watch in auditorium. Then, there’s a figure that moves inside the house. I thought it was Mischa, for the longest time. Then, perhaps on about the tenth or twelfth time I dreamt the dream, which was once every eight or nine months, the dream followed through, whereas it used to wake me up at this point. And it turned out that the specter wasn’t me, but it was Mischa, [er… this is what you say in the first place] although I had no idea what she wanted. It was dark, and all I could discern were gestures from her.
Yet a final example of Brookesmith’s utter lack of reading ability, and inability to even keep a narrative focus for more than a paragraph. Note his snide comment that the dwarf’s realization that the figure in his dream was Mischa was stated earlier. Yet, this is clearly incorrect, and unlike the earlier example of a paragraph coming between the dimming of lights, their going on, and being dimmed again, only a single sentence- yeas, a sentence, separates the dwarf’s definite knowledge that it was Mischa in his dream and the indefinite assumption, where it is clearly stated that ‘I thought it was Mischa’! Either Brookesmith has trouble with the indefinite and definite, or he is just an idiot, pure and plain. Literally, read the passage and it’s clearly a revelatory one, yet this utterly goes by Brookesmith. How can he even try to claim he is an editor when, with these dozens of ridiculous redaction suggestions, it is clear he should not even be let near a Dick & Jane primer. What ego or what lack that needs to be filled compels someone so ill suited for such a task to engage in it? It truly is mysterious.
Fortunately, the 13th and final chapter had no redactions suggested. Thus, ends this section on redactions, but I’d like aspiring writers to reread this section, and all of Brookesmith’s ignorant, and often flat out logically and grammatically incorrect, suggestions and then cogitate on this: he is, in my experience, one of the better and more caring editors out there. Yes, you heard that. At least this poor dim-witted soul, actually invested the time to thoroughly read my novel, as poorly as he obviously did. Most editors, at big or small presses, will likely only read 5-10 pages, if that, and rarely. And if they do not ‘like’ what they read, they reject it. It’s as if one can tell what a song is like by its first three bars. That might work for Name That Tune, and television shows like it, but imagine trying to judge Gershwin or Beethoven by such a standard. But, the sad reality is even dimmer than that. Most editors do not read manuscripts submitted at all. They are weeded out by in-house readers, and the same goes for literary agencies, who have mostly heisted the task of editing from the lazy publishers themselves. And, just who are these readers? Mature, wise people who have retired after decades of reading both classics and modern novels? No. These readers are high school and college aged interns who are basically lobbying to become agents when they graduate, usually so they can have an ‘in’ over the tens of thousands of bad MFA writers released every year from the college Creative Writing mills, of which they too have been spawned from. Imagine your typical 19 or 20 year old encountering Melville, Proust, or Hesse for the first time, sans any CliffsNotes to crib from, and not even reading the loads of MFA level crap that is churned out online every year, and you will understand why general delitearcy is a FAR bigger problem than the small pockets of illiteracy that remain.
There’s little doubt that, despite his having a good heart, creatively, artistically, and intellectually, Peter Brookesmith is just not that bright (see, kindness?), but, give him his due; he may have missed out on a great novel staring him in the kisser, but at least he read the whole thing. Sad, that merely doing one’s job, and very poorly, at that, is actually worthy of any praise, faint though it be. So, again, excelsior!
As mentioned, Brookesmith was not content in merely laying out his ignorance in redactive suggestions, he had to summarize his ‘in-depth’ thoughts in a PDF file. Why Word was insufficient I do not know. But, let me give this note to all publishers:
NEVER go into detailed explanations of a rejection, as it
will likely reveal far more of your lack than the work’s, which is likely also
That last bit is obviously inapplicable to Bit Of Golem, but, I will now annotate the notes Brookesmith sent. My comments will be standard and Brookesmith’s indented..
Here are my reflections on the book. In the MS I have raised various picky queries [in square brackets and itals] thus, and marked typos simply in bold. Some of the picky queries are dealt with under the heading ‘Precision’ below. Some paras that I think could go I’ve marked in italics in the MS, with an appropriate query/note after. The notes on style and puncutation are here because this is the kind of thing that rubs editors/professional readers up the wrong way: it will be one more task for them or a copy editor to correct, and in these electronic days they’d rather not have to make this kind of change, which should be sorted as a matter of course by the author before sending a script out. So these comments should be useful for all your MSS. My general assessment comes last.
He is thorough, give him that, but one need only read the punctuationless drivel of a James Frey, or the visual tricks of a Dave Eggers or David Foster Wallace to know that the claims of copy editors being frustrated is bogus. This sort of crap is deemed innovative, even if, unlike a Dickinson or Joyce, there is no real reason for it. My stylistic preferences (four dot ellipses, combined dash-hyphens, etc.), by contrast, are negligible.
Names of books, movies, paintings, ships, aircraft, CDs/LPs, TV & radio shows and like items take italics. Names of songs take quotes. Products eg Wrigley's, or bands, eg Led Zeppelin, or brands or marques eg Cadillac Coupé de Ville, don’t.
This simply is not a rule that is standard anywhere. All pubishers, blogs, websites, newspapers, and magazines, follow their own rules, and as long as internally consistent, no one bats an eye. This is Brookesmith’s rules, but, as the novel is mine, the writing will follow my own preferences. Not, as example, how Brookesmith uses eg instead of the ‘technically correct e.g., which means exempli gratia, or free example, and is followed by a series or list. Another clue to editors, if one is taking on the mantle of grammar Nazi, at least be consistent, and follow the same rules (poor though they may be) yourself.
Use italics, not bold + italics, and not bold, and not capitals, especially not in combination with any of the foregoing. The reader will supply any additional emphasis from the context. Trying to increase emphasis looks amateurish except in children’s books. I’ve changed some but not all of these in the MS.
Again, a non-existent rule, save for in Brookesmith’s head. And, again, look how he does not even follow any internally consistent standard himself. Emphasis is not always able to be given via context, especially in dialogue, where bolding, italics, capitalization, and their combination, can connote varying levels of stress, open to the reader to interpret as they will. So, it’s not amateurish, but a sign of a writer both directing and allowing a reader to a proper emotional level. To suggest otherwise is akin to stating that punctuation is also amateurish, for people should be able to discern the end of a thought without a condescending period. Utter drivel, and applied unthinkingly it’s even worse.
It helps reduce confusion to hyphenate certain phrases eg ‘a like-for-like exchange’ or ‘tit-for-tat’ or ‘Mona Lisa-like smirk’ (and so on). You tend not to do this, with some consequent ambiguity or difficulty in reading, sometimes extreme, and always irritating.
Again, a wholly subjective claim. There is a clear difference between stating Mona Lisa like and Mona Lisa-like. The former connotes a vague similarity, whereas the hypen denotes a near similitude. That is WHY there is a hyphen in some instances, and not in others. In short, the wanton overuse of a punctual mark lessens its effectiveness. Similarly, although the two words connotes and denotes have different meanings, I italicize them in this paragraph because certain editors simply need to have such manifestations emphasized, lest spin off into nonsensical vagaries.
You consistently (as in your internet copy) write dashes as a hyphen and a space- like this- which produces a double-take, and is anyway both ugly and incorrect. In MSS for publishers or agents, use either ‘n’ dashes – like this, with a space either side – or ‘m’ dashes, with no space—like that. The internet being typographically weird and unpredictable, it’s safest to use two hyphens with a space fore and aft -- like that. In the MS I have changed all would-be dashes to ‘m’ dashes. This exposes some occasions when you’ve started a parenthetical comment with a dash but ended it with a comma. These mistakes remain unchanged, as you may prefer dashes in some cases and commas in others.
Note the arrogance of Brookesmith (and don’t get me started on the arrogance of the ignorant). I sent my manuscript merely for an up and down rejection or acceptance. He simply had no right to reformat the manuscript according to his, as I’ve demonstrated, own personal whims. That aside, I explained that my use of a dash-hyphen, rather than the hypen, em- and en- dashes, is not willy nilly, but more often than not connotes a double meaning. Emily Dickinson’s dashes, as example, also served a purpose. I find most em and en dashes to be silly, since most human thought rarely distinguishes between the two, and since commas often serve better than em dashes. But note how clueless Brookesmith is- he actually starts the paragraph by stating ‘You consistently (as in your internet copy) write dashes….’ Would it not behoove anyone of a good intellect to think that internal consistency must be there for a reason? Dickinson was consistent, so am I. And, again, Brookesmith is flat wrong when he writes, ‘This exposes some occasions when you’ve started a parenthetical comment with a dash but ended it with a comma.’ Those occasions are because the parenthetical is contained within a list or series. In other words, I am using both the dash and comma correctly, merely in appropriate combination. This should not even seem innovative to a language specialist, but it emphasizes just how deliterate Brookesmith and his ilk are.
In dialogue, a new paragraph in a speech should start with a fresh opening quote mark. Only the last paragraph of a multi-paragraphed speech should have closing quotes (a rule you do observe). Note too that quotes within quotes go as follows—single quotes within
double quotes, and double quotes within single quotes, eg:; ‘He just kept shouting “Scum!” at me,’ she explained wanly.
nor and neither
Use either ‘neither...nor’ or ‘not...or’. ‘Not...nor’ is wrong.
Now Brookesmith is going over the line. His claims of quotation marks are simply not standard, and, in fact, I prefer the single to double quote. But, personal preference aside, he is, again, 100% wrong regarding the word nor. A simple dictionary or Google search will show:
Show Spelled [nawr; unstressed ner] Show IPA
(used in negative phrases, esp. after neither, to introduce the second member in a series, or any subsequent member): Neither he nor I will be there. They won't wait for you, nor for me, nor for anybody.
(used to continue the force of a negative, as not, no, never, etc., occurring in a preceding clause): He left and I never saw him again, nor did I regret it.
(used after an affirmative clause, or as a continuative, in the sense of and not ): They are happy, nor need we worry.
Older Use . than.
Archaic . (used without a preceding neither, the negative force of which is understood): He nor I was there.
Archaic . (used instead of neither as correlative to a following nor ): Nor he nor I was there.
Note definition 2: used to continue the force of a negative, as not, no, never, etc., occurring in a preceding clause. Again, if one is going to be a grammar nazi 1) be correct and 2) be consistent. This is just horrendous editorial comment! Utterly indefensible. Get a dictionary, Brookesmith! And, no, this is not a difference between American and British English. I won’t even comment on whether or not the semi-colon following the colon is a preference or not, but its deployment is grammatically wrong, 100%.
I don’t know if this is an actual name, or perhaps a joke. But in German it would be either Reingold (pure gold) or Rhinegold (gold from the Rhine). So perhaps it is a joke.
As mentioned earlier, a quick Google search would have shown Brookesmith that it is a common German surname. I mean, he cannot be this stupid, can he? The only joke, though, may be that Brookesmith is not kidding.
You consistently use this word to mean ‘problem’. Granting that in certain contexts it can mean that, this nasty neologism is otherwise busy impoverishing the language and should be avoided in all but satirical or ironic contexts, given the diversity of alternatives.
It is a buzzword, and one that has come into vogue. It is also colloquially appropriate to use it. Note his subjective choice of defining it as nasty, and his seeming pride in being almost wholly divorced from realistic modern idiom. Not good in an editor.
Sometimes you refer to Angelique being up for writing the dwarf’s biography, sometimes his autobiography—but in that case she would be working as a ghost, which would hardly further her career.
It is ironic that he chimes in on the natural inconsistency of most people, especially, since, again, he inconsistently refers to the reporter as both Angelique and Angelica, (the correct name), thus recapitulating the very sort of realism he wants to remove from the novel. But, in fact, the word autobiography appears just once, and in the several other mentions of biography, one appears with a quoted ‘official’ preceding it, meaning that it may or may not end up being ghosted. Clearly, Brookesmith should know that such things are up in the air, and determined by marketing departments, especially since the reporter is a gun for hire, and unknown with little clout. It makes one wonder how many times Brookesmith even looked over the material he sent to me, for it shows an alarming lack of rigorous thought.
On page 7 of the annotated MS you twice use ‘earlier’ when I think you mean ‘later’. As both instances occur in a passage that you could probably usefully cut, this may not matter; but I was confused.
Finally, an act of good proofreading. Those were typos, although the paragraph actually does give a good portrait of the sort of mind the dwarf has, and which he later displays. So, even after a good comment, Brookesmith blows it. But, his confusion is predictable by now.
The best part of the book is the end, when the dwarf makes his real, or at any rate final, confession to the befuddled reporter. This rips along: one really feels the pressure behind the speaking voice, and the writing lives up to the tension of the subject.
Note Brookesmith’s use of the term rips, a buzzword meaning modern novel of little depth that is a….ugh….page turner.
It is getting there that is the problem, for me. Unrelenting accounts of interviews can come off, just about. John le Carré has, or had, a habit of giving his loyal readers voluminous blow-by-blow and tic-by-tic accounts of interviews (The Little Drummer Girl and The Honourable Schoolboy come to mind), but I doubt he would have got away with it prior to that guaranteed-sales stage of his career.
Look at the last sentence. Brookesmith reveals his bent on letting mass appeal influence art. Not a good thing for any editor to do; take note writers!
Also, these are only segments of quite lengthy novels—so, even if sometimes one does feel one’s ploughing through them, there’s always more story on the way.
Shorthand for plot-driven writing. Go ahead, and read any of the paragraph or longer excerpts, from the novel, in this essay. There is a STRONG narrative, and great character development. Much occurs; it’s merely framed within the memory of the dwarf. There is plenty of action, it’s merely internal and past tense.
There was a classic episode of Homicide (I think it was called ‘The Araber’) that never moved out of the interrogation room; I suspect the writers were inspired by an episode or two of early Z Cars. You can get away with that for one hour, but not more, on TV, provided you have high quality writing (dialogue, firmly established characters) and direction, and the faith of your producer.
By the end of Chapter One, I guarantee that most readers will know more about the dwarf than 99.9% of other characters gleaned from even the best novels. Not only that, but most will like the character, and those that do not will still be able to identify aspects of him with people they know.
Unfortunately I don’t think you quite succeed for an entire (and not overlong) book. Although I admire your courage in taking up the challenge. This is the stuff of either a somewhat longer book, or a short story. I don’t think the latter is a practicable proposition. As it stands, it’s claustrophobic. We never move out of the Manse—no matter where the dwarf sets his conversation, it’s still his voice that’s taking us there—and almost the only voice is the dwarf’s. If some, maybe all, of his anecdotes were in the third person—if the scene dissolved, so to speak, to the events in question, there would be both a change of pace/place and some fresh air and sunlight. That should also create some greater perspective on the character.
I won’t even comment on the silly courage bon mot, but one of the principle differences between Bit Of Golem and Sandor Marai’s Embers is that, instead of the 99-1% imbalance of dialogue between the two main characters, there is only about a 75-25% ration between the dwarf and reporter, in terms of their exchanges. Angelica, the reporter, is thoroughly sketched, although, due to her arrival in the novel, and the lesser amount of dialogue, it takes a good third to half of the novel to get to know and identify with her.
In fact, doing as Brookesmith suggests, to dissolve scenes or change to third person accounts, would diffuse the power of the dwarf’s presence. After all, he is a mega-celebrity in the novel, and the book’s presentation reflects that stature, by SHOWING this in the disparity of time allotted each character’s voice; a point that, despite his loving that show don’t tell cliché, he utterly misses when confronted with it.
Then there’s what the dwarf actually has to say. He, frankly, rabbits on about life, the universe and everything, including the movies. While he holds forth in a way that certainly conveys the nature of his devious ego, he dwells often and at great length on questions that are not necessarily of immediate interest. For example, he suddenly launches into an account of evolution along Gouldian lines, which is both long-winded and (seemingly) a random digression, without context. The reporter doesn’t ask why he’s
gone off on this track, even internally. So we are left wondering why we have to wade through something we already know (or is heresy, if you’re a One O’ Them) and that’s not exactly presented in a manner to hold the class’s attention. It does turn out, much later, that he was making a general ‘philosophical’ point. So, okay—but he could have done it more economically, more organically, and with rather more liveliness. Even a bit of to-and-fro with the reporter would have helped. This is without even asking how many people are likely to be entranced by a short history of evolution in the first place.
First, the dwarf is actually one of the few characters in literature, with an ego, that has the experience and intellect to back it up. Think of the Holden Caulfields, or Jay Gatsbys, or even Atticus Finches. They are relative cardboard characters in comparison to Bit/Lem; and this is readily discernible just from the excerpts I provide from the annotate manuscript. Plus, unlike the other three characters, he has a sense of humor, most importantly about himself.
And the book is filled with give and take between the two main character; again, much of it quoted in this essay. As for why someone would want to know some of the digressions the dwarf makes: 1) because it amply sketches his intellect and character, for he uses them to illustrate points, or have points illustrated that he is unaware of, 2) not for a second do I believe most deliterate readers know of nor understand physics nor evolution, much less finer points of the arts which elude even the sciolistic Brookesmith, and 3) they are usually told with a point or humor, and in remarkable brevity, considering their complexity. And, the obvious unstated point is that the conversations on all subject matters are not important in themselves, but in that they are useful to the dwarf, and in his battle of wits with the reporter, regardless of what is said; although often he declaims on a particular topic with specific reasons, and ones not indiscernible to those of intellect in matters human.
Which of course raises the large and obvious question about the general interest of the movie industry beyond mayhem and depravity and trivial celebrity. Now, I speak as someone somewhat taken by film, and altogether receptive to informed opinion about movies, indeed one who’s often found your reviews illuminating, even worth keeping, some of them. But here we have movies presented as a vehicle for ideas about art, as expounded by Our Miniature Friend. Now and then he’s precise—eg talking about how
Kubrick and Scorsese developed their film characters and reveal them in tiny details, which is all good stuff, and even better you don’t even have to have seen the films to get the point. But more often he talks about Art in the abstract. As he mostly does when having a go at the AbEx crowd. The abstractions aside for a moment, all this presumes your reader has a) a deep fascination for movies and b) a prior and detailed knowledge of particular films. Oh, and a passing acquaintance with the New York art scene of the
1940s/50s. I do not think you can count on that.
Note how he claims that I am assuming that people will have interest in AbEx paintings. I don’t. Nor do I count on that, or any single particular angle of the book. There will always be parts of any person or mind that do not interest a particular person, or reader (even if a lover or spouse), but showing the large swath of what the dwarf knows, and has done, in his life, is important. Again, there is a reason he is the interviewed and not the interviewee.
The only way way this is going to work in a novel is, apart from the instances cited, to have the dwarf talk about his own films and why they’re art. Which he claims but never justifies, the way things are. Just to labour the point—I think you are running here the same risk as I would were I to write a novel that featured a star showjumper, and treated the reader to a rundown on equine psychology and the art of dressage; or one about jazz that went into dominant ninths and suspended fourths and four ways to play A-flat on the sax. The only instance I wot of that takes a special interest, so to speak, and makes it riveting, is William Tevis’s The Queen’s Gambit. I know sod-all about chess, but I was on the edge of my seat reading that, and the crafty bastard made the game both madness and metaphor at the same time.
Give Brookesmith plaudits for using wot, otherwise, this is nonsense. First, the dwarf does not talk much about his own art for two basic reasons- 1) they are not extant. He can declaim on Goodfellas or Wild Strawberries at length because people will have a referent. Not so with a fictive work, but, 2) more importantly, the dwarf actually has a degree of modesty. He has an ego, but one large enough for his own accomplishments.
And while we might well be able to dispose of many a bottle of good claret in interesting backs-and-forths, deep into the night, about what constitutes Art, I start on the same side as you. For instance I think we’d agree that one key to recognizing a story as art is to see how it dramatizes, not merely describes, the author’s thought. (Dr Leavis described great literature as ‘a form of thought’, and one not compatible with the abstracting practice of philosophy.) So I don’t want to read someone’s opinion of such stuff in a novel unless it illuminates the character and forwards the plot, no matter how wise their words, and I don’t want to read sermons in novels either (unless they do the same thing and, furthermore, entertain me). I want to see it happen, as a drama, not a statement—I can
read statements in The Times or the Spectator; I can even churn them out myself. Principles aside, this is another reason I feel trapped by the rambling egomaniac dwarf, and am not sufficiently distracted by the reporter, who seems to be the thinnest of tin foils to him. I would also be more entranced by the dwarf, and more receptive to the design of the book, if his rhetoric had more life to it. Granted he has some diverting and quite nose-bending kinkiness, but that’s not per se interesting and, one assumes, is indeed a diversion, a fake openness that helps hide his real secrets (whatever they are—and I do like the way you leave it open as to whether even his final ‘confession’ is the real deal or not). What he
doesn’t have is a turn of phrase. No unexpected analogies, no startling similes, no original metaphors (compare the ramblings of King David in Hellers God Knows). The ideas he expresses may go against the common grain, but the texture of his language is no richer than (and maybe even less rich) than the average soccer report. Consequently he’s tiring to listen to. And this is a trifle odd in one who, for all his faults, is offered as an original artist.
This is actually an instructive passage, for in it Brookesmith reveals his own limitations as an artist, critic, and editor. First, I challenge anyone to read even the excerpts above, and it is clear that the dwarf does an excellent job of not mere iteration or reiteration, but he makes his life, ala in the film My Dinner With Andre, come alive. He is a consummate storyteller and everything he states is revelatory- not all grandly so, but everything relates to his character, which is constantly being layered. Is the dwarf an egomaniac? Perhaps, but he’s clearly egotistical, albeit justifiably so- he’s rich, he’s powerful, he’s created a recognized body of work that is lauded, and he may be dying, so is reflective on it all. As for ‘No unexpected analogies, no startling similes, no original metaphors,’ I’d say, again, just a cursory reading of the excerpts convincingly dispels that. Brookesmith may not like them, but they are there in spades, from minor twists of clichés to wholly original descriptions. As for the dwarf being an ‘original’ artist, he’s very early on portrayed as a B filmmaker and a wealthy pornographer. He has been declaimed an artist by others. And I doubt most readers of intelligence would find him tiring.
As my friend Ron says, I think I’ve gone about as far as I can without spellcheck. The above tries to explain why I am not offering to publish Bit of Golem in its present form. (I wonder if it might work as a play??—a thought). I hope it’s been helpful and doesn’t get me a place in your Hall of Morons. If you decide to have another go at it I’d be happy to read the revision. If you see what I’m getting at you may prefer (one has to practise
economies) to take my frail & wobbly wisdom into your next project. If you think one of your other novels does what I am hinting at here better, I’d be happy to read that if you think it would be useful. Meanwhile do bear in mind that I’ll be concentrating on reprints, for FireCrest, in the immediate future. This doesn’t mean however that I can’t be a
constructive—or so I hope—critic in my ho-ho-ho copious free time.
Best wishes &c
So, there it is: Peter Brookesmith, nice but deluded editor. Does this place him in my Hall Of Morons? Would that I had such; but I’ll let the individual reader decide on who has been right or wrong. But, clearly and unequivocally, Brookesmith contradicts himself over and again does no know nor understand basic grammar, refuses to even use a dictionary, and just plain cannot read well, lacking any depth of reading comprehension. Just reread those sections where he asks questions that are answered were he to read a few words on, or wrongly assumes narrative aspects that are clearly delineated a sentence or paragraph earlier.
I opened this essay by claiming that this essay would likely be the most important, thus far, in this series, and I stick to that; especially for aspiring writers. But, hand in hand with that is the fact that this is also the most depressing piece I’ve written. Internet frauds, trolls, hacks, idiots, and sciolists are part and parcel of that medium, but there simply is no excuse for a books editor, small or large press, to be as atrocious as Brookesmith, especially when he spends a good amount of time touting himself and his press as superior. In short, false advertising. Period. And like the false dichotomy between Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and small and indy bookstores, there is a false dichotomy between the small press and the corporate behemoths. As long as they both produce crap and both employ deliterates, they are both as culpable for the dumbing down of culture. As I mentioned, I had to do this piece for the aspiring writers of quality out there because, as I’ve shown, it’s not just that Brookesmith was amazingly dense and irresponsibly ignorant of basic editorial, writing, and grammatical basics, nor even lacking in those subjective areas so many agents and editors try to hide their ignorance behind, but that such a high percentage of his editorial suggestions were so outrageously, obviously, demonstrably, and objectively WRONG! And, if he can be so clueless about such relatively easy and objective matters re: writing good and great, then what hope is there for him to even begin to comprehend a bit more difficult concept like the fact that good character development is achieved far more deeply, subtly, and effectively, via the internal reactions a character is told as having versus the external actions he is shown as doing? And this truism is one that contradicts such simpleminded clichés as those that Brookesmith pulls from his editorial bag of tricks, such as ‘Show, don’t say!’ I guess one can give poor Brookesmith some minor credit for at least rephrasing the cliché to end with ‘say,’ not ‘tell.’ Nonetheless, hopefully, there are still a few good editors left, willing to actually appreciate quality writing when presented with it, and not turned off by the stew of shit that piles in from MFA scum.
On the positive side, I will say, in rereading my book, the ending is simply fantastic, and in the last few lines my ending with light and what it lights wholly recapitulates the whole point of the novel. Aside from obvious typos, I always mean what I write- it’s there for a reason and usually a damned good one. And let’s face it, there have been hundreds of thousands of Peter Brookesmiths involved in the publishing industry over the last few decades, for every Dan or Jessica Schneider out there, so it will take time for these problems to turn around. But this essay is a good place to start, especially if you are a writer with talent, who wants to communicate not just with readers alive today, but those in the future. In short, as I mentioned at this essay’s start, the flaw is with the Brookesmiths, not with you!
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