Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Morning Reading: Adventures in Editing

I've been enjoying the two-part excerpt of an unfinished memoir from the late Ted Solataroff which recently appeared in The Nation. Titled, "Adventures in Editing," it's an education and a half.

"Adventures in Editing" concerns Ted's first magazine gig: the years he worked under the tutelage of Norman Podhoretz at Commentary in the early 1960s. As Ted honed his editorial chops, befriended writers and clashed with his boss, he also gradually awakened to the conviction that would soon guide his work on the phenomenal little magazine New American Review: "Literature was too important a democratic resource to be left to the literati." One can also see Ted fashioning what book editor Gerald Howard has called his "exquisitely calibrated openness to the new with old-school rigor."


...She scanned the first paragraph. "So many words," she said. "So much 'on the one hand, on the other hand.'" She read on. "'Shapiro is a critic in spite of himself.' That begins to be interesting." She drew a diagonal line through the first two paragraphs, which I had rewritten about twenty times, trying to introduce the argument in a balanced way. "Let's start here and see if we can make this less ponderous."

"Wait a minute, you're amputating my approach."

"No, dear Ted. I'm taking down your scaffolding."

Well, what she proceeded to do was a revelation. What I had thought was a solid review turned out to have as much fat as a sixteen-ounce blue-plate special. My resentment at being told I was ponderous turned into gratitude once I began to see with her eye and fall into step with her pace. "Why the double adjectives here? Give me a good precise one." My overzealous development of a point--example, comment, further example, more comment, final example (what Sherry called "the graduate school schlep")--turned into an incisive statement and the best example, and moved on. She showed me how removing a transitional or topic sentence from the head of a paragraph could energize the line of discussion and more involve the reader. "This is how Lionel would do it," she would say, cutting a sentence to the quick or making two or even three related sentences into one to heighten the play of thought...

For the beginning of the rest, click here.

After that, make your way around The Nation's groovy site the best you can to find the rest - and a lot more. It's worth it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this. Fascinating. --- Dawn

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