Join with me in a little celebration, dear readers. The page proofs of A Terry Teachout Reader, the anthology of my selected essays due out next spring from Yale University Press, arrived in the mail yesterday. Yippee!
For those of you who aren’t in the lit biz, “proofs” are freshly typeset pages of a book, magazine article, or newspaper piece that the author proofreads and corrects prior to publication. Usually, that’s the first time when you get to see more than a few sample pages set up in type, and even if it isn’t your first book, it’s still thrilling.
I think I’ve been reasonably good about keeping H. L. Mencken out of your hair, but I do want to share an anecdote from The Skeptic: A Life of H. L. Mencken with you. Mencken was 25 years old when his first full-length book, George Bernard Shaw: His Plays, was published in 1905. He was still an up-and-coming young editor at the Baltimore Herald, so he brought the proofs to the office that day to show to Lynn Meekins, his boss. There followed a scene (lovingly described in Newspaper Days, the second volume of Mencken’s memoirs)
sure to warm the heart of anyone who has ever published a book:
I was so enchanted that I could not resist taking the proofs to the office and showing them to Meekins–on the pretense, as I recall, of consulting him about a doubtful passage. He seemed almost as happy about it as I was. “If you live to be two hundred years old,” he said, “you will never forget this day. It is one of the great days of your life, and maybe the greatest. You will write other books, but none of them will ever give you half the thrill of this one. Go to your office, lock the door, and sit down to read your proofs. Nothing going on in the office can be as important. Take the whole day off, and enjoy yourself.” I naturally protested, saying that this or that had to be looked to. “Nonsense!” replied Meekins. “Let all those things take care of themselves. I order you to do nothing whatsoever until you have finished with the proofs. If anything pops up I’ll have it sent to me.” So I locked myself in as he commanded, and had a shining day indeed, and I can still remember its unparalleled glow after all these years.
Me, I’m still feeling a little bit glowy today.
Needless to say, life goes on, proofs or no proofs, and I spent the greater part of yesterday nailed to my desk chair, writing my “Second City” column for this Sunday’s Washington Post, after which I scurried down to the Algonquin Hotel to hear Stacey Kent’s Oak Room opening, so you’ll have to be content with a minimalist blog. Today’s topics, from loquacious to concise: (1) The best of all possible Westerns. (2) The snarkiest blog on earth, hands down. (3) The latest almanac entry.
I’ll try to do better tomorrow.