Archive for May 5th, 2008


Textual Editing: Tomorrow’s Problem Today

May 5, 2008

A post earlier today on Language Log led me to this post on paperpools.

I’ve had several conversations with Friend of Hoosierati Nancee Reeves who worked for awhile as a textual editor at The [George] Santayana Edition at IUPUI’s Institute of American Thought. She and I have basically overlapping ideas of the importance of textual criticism, the role of editors etc. But the field is structured in such a way that very minor differences in opinion often prescribe very different policies. Likewise, very broad differences may strangely yield similar policies.

This post is captivating for two reasons. It deals with one of my favorite authors, Cormac McCarthy, winner of last year’s Pulitzer Prize in fiction (and deserving of at least three more for works already done). It also makes it very clear that problems of textual purity are not just the concerns of future editors dealing with historical authors’ works but in fact are causing problems (and costing money) in today’s publishing houses.

For that matter, the post is interesting because it deals with the beleaguered semi-colon, a punctuation mark both harder to use and harder to love than the colon, and that’s saying something. Indianapolis native Kurt Vonnegut, for all his encouragement in the writing arts, hated the lowly semi-colon. If I remember right he said something to the effect that “they are transvestite hermaphrodites, representing nothing more than the fact you went to college.” But I doubt that even he would recommend going back three centuries to eradicate their use in Jonathan Swift’s essays.

Photo by Flickr user Orin Optiglot used under a Creative Commons license.

This entry was posted by: Jim

Interview with Norbert Krapf

May 5, 2008

In advance of their release of Norbert Krapf’s memoir The Ripest Moments: A Southern Indiana Childhood, the Indiana Historical Society has published an interview with the author on their blog. Krapf is a nationally recognized poet. One of his previous works, The Country I Come From (2002) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

This entry was posted by: Jim

Banned Books

May 5, 2008

I used to work at a used bookstore chain that celebrated Banned Books Week every year by building large, creative displays of books “banned” in the United States. The display always provoked a lot of discussion amongst staff and customers alike.

Customers of all ages were always befuddled that beloved classics or personal favorites had found their way to such ignominious acclaim–“Banned!?” Many rightfully indignant readers would sometimes, to the chagrin of staff and other onlookers, be proponents of banning books of their own choosing.

America, to the best of my knowledge has not banned a book–at least not for a very long time. However, school boards, local libraries, and various other organizations ban books for their specific audiences–removing them from library shelves, hosting community book burnings, and the like. The Missouri Humanities Council has recently reproduced two such lists, asking commenters to proclaim their favorite from the lists.

From the two list they offer I have a hard time picking a favorite. Many of the books are canonized classics that I love more or less equally. Some are unknown to me. Wikipedia offers a more complete list of “most commonly challenged books in the U.S.” As they explain, this list does not limit itself to books that have actually been removed from bookshelves but, odds are, that many of them have been. At any rate, these are the books that are most frequently under attack.

I have a hard time picking a favorite off this list too but for a completely different reason. So many books appear on the list that picking my favorite challenged book is equivalent to picking my favorite book.

In lieu of picking my favorite, here are my top 5 from the Wikipedia List (in no particular order):

  • The House of Spirits
  • Slaughterhouse-Five
  • Invisible Man
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • The Handmaid’s Tale

Actually, in narrowing down to five, I found the task basically impossible and I’m regretting the list already. How, after all, could I have failed to place Huckleberry Finn or Brave New World? So I tried to limit my choices to reflect those books like Fahrenheit 451–the banning of which reveals a fundamental lack of of a sense of irony on the part of the banning organization.

Photo by Flickr user mrtwism used under a Creative Commons license.

This entry was posted by: Jim