How would you like to be author of that boat’s daily newsletter, or its menus? (“No, I beg to differ, our style requires two Ls in “fillet”!)
Just as bad editing drains the life from a living thing as does as any fanged character on Alan Ball’s True Blood, good editing does the opposite. Sometimes that means as little as a kind word to a nervous scribe, or a swashbuckling challenge, or a left-field query, surely between equals.
One editor, of course, is always enough.
Readers may recognize the Man Ray photo above of Margaret Anderson, not the character played by Jane Wyatt on TV’s Father Knows Best, but the founder and editor of The Little Review, who with lover and coeditor Jane Heap first published, in serial form, James Joyce’s Ulysses. I think it my duty as a typical example of that hybrid monster of journalism, editor-writer, to quote from My Thirty Years’ War, Anderson’s memoir of time spent with the likes of Stein, Hemingway, H.D., and D.H. Lawrence under lapis lazuli modernist skies.
Does this editor protest too much, or not enough?
I was having a marveolus time being an editor. I was born to be an editor. I always edit everything. I edit my room at least once a week. Hotels are made for me. I can change a hotel room so thoroughly that even its proprietor doesn’t recognize it. I select or reject every house seen from train windows and install myself in all the chosen ones, changing their defects, of course. Life becomes confusing. … Where haven’t I lived?
I edit people’s clothes, dressing them infallibly in the right lines. I am capable of becoming so obsessed by the lines of a well-cut coat that its owner thinks I am flirting with him before I’ve realized he is in the coat. I change everyone’s coiffure — except those that please me — and these I gaze at with such satisfaction that I become suspect. I edit people’s tones of voice, their laughter, their words, I change their gestures, their photographs. I change the books I read, the music I hear. In a passing glance I know a man’s sartorial perfections or crimes — collar, cravat, handkerchief, socks, cut of shoulders, lapels, trousers, placement of waistline, buttons, pockets, quality of material, shoes, walk, manner of carrying stick, angle of hat, contour of hair. It is this incessant, unavoidable observation, this need to distinguish and impose, that has made me an editor. I can’t make things. I can only revise what has been made. And it is this eternal revising that has given me my nervous face.
Me, I would delete that last sentence at least, maybe the last three.
(At right, “The Little Review” coeditor Jane Heap. Cut of shoulders seems fine.)