What It Is (posts below left; rate sheet, client list, other stuff below right)

My name is Bob Land. I am a full-time freelance editor and proofreader, and occasional indexer. This blog is my website.

You'll find my rate sheet and client list here, as well as musings on the life of a freelancer; editing, proofreading, and indexing concerns and issues; my ongoing battles with books and production; and the occasional personal revelation.

Feel free to contact me directly with additional questions: landondemand@gmail.com.

Thanks for visiting. Leave me a comment. Come back often.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sketches of Ulysses, 3

From Wikipedia: The Rolling Stone Album Guide calls it “a work of unparalleled grace and lyricism.” In 2003, the album was ranked number 356 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

I call it virtually impossible to leave playing for five minutes.

For me to say that any music is unlistenable is quite the achievement on the part of the composer, arranger, conductor, and musicians. With few exceptions I can sit through just about anything.

Exceptions: Opera and Led Zeppelin, both of which I’ve always lumped in the same category — they’re great until the singing starts.

I’d heard that Ulysses was one of the great unread novels of all time, the kind of literature that people like to say they’ve plowed through in order to impress other people, but which no one has actually read from beginning to end.

Maybe that was Finnegans Wake. Or Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow.

My Boyz (as opposed to my sons) were dragged with me through elements of my Ulysses work, whether they wanted to be or not.

[First, let me say that my Boyz are vastly, vastly better educated and well-read than I am. Giants and geniuses all.]

Beast told Scooter, “You should read it. It’s not that difficult (no more so than Absalom Absalom or Gravity’s Rainbow).”

Strongboy piped in, “I tried [Gravity’s Rainbow] recently and couldn’t locate a major plot—or a minor one—by about page 50 and aborted. I like to be challenged as a reader, but a little positive reinforcement for the effort would be nice, too.”

Paisan, resident polymath, responded quickly, “One plot starts at the White Visitation, where the behaviorist Pointsman is studying Tyrone Slothrop because he gets a hard-on and screws a British gal BEFORE the V2 rockets hit that London locale (they are silent, traveling faster than the speed of sound). Response, THEN stimulus. Of course, there is Roger Mexico, also at the WV, plotting V2 hits according to the Poisson distribution; as Pointsman dwells in the Zero and the One, Mexico lives everywhere in between, in probabilities. There are three other major plots (involving the suicide of Herero tribe, a German chemist, a Russian and the Kirgiz lights)—‘any one of which would have enhanced the status of every novelist writing in English,’ according to the NYT review.”

I love my Boyz. Paisan can hold the floor for hours on the Civil War, Shakespeare, baseball, statistics, Pynchon, politics, city planning, and probably half a dozen other topics I can’t even imagine. And that’s without anything to lube his delivery.

Trust me, Paisan needs nothing to lube his delivery. And it’s always well informed and hilarious.  

When I knew Ulysses was coming in, I’d committed myself to read the novel first, and then the front and back matter. The front matter introduces the novel, discussing its construction, themes, and publication history. The back matter presents the explanatory notes, the semiofficial errata sheets, and 200-some-odd pages of some of the most soul-numbing proofreading I’ve ever done, because of the quality of the scan, not the nature of the material.

And when I say “soul-numbing proofreading,” that’s an area with which I’m well familiar. I spent the first 17 months out of college proofreading airline timetables and lottery and scratch-off tickets—one of the most enjoyable and, in retrospect, perhaps simplest times of my life. Ah, the Helen Estates, and Atlanta before it went nuts.


I read Ulysses front to back, with the exception of the play chapter, which was far too frustrating from a bad-scan perspective to continue, and I needed at that time, as Strongboy said, some positive reinforcement. After that chapter, the proofreading was easy, especially Molly’s rant at the end. Then I went back and finished the play chapter, which ended up containing my favorite character in the book, a progressively drunker military type who is the prototype for the kind of folks who really groove on Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to Be an American.”

My thinking as page gave way to page was that Joyce didn’t really care about the reader. Joyce cared about Joyce. Joyce cared about showing folks how clever he was, and how he could write in any genre (not all equally well, in my mind, but some damn good). Joyce was more intent on the structure and the detail and the variety of his styles than in presenting a story that anyone would, could, or should follow.

Sometimes when I’m returning a manuscript, I’ll tell the author what an accomplishment the work was. I’m always sincere about that statement, and it occasionally is uttered when I’ve just read a very good book. But sometimes that statement is coded language for, “I’m happy for you and your career that you’ve devoted so much time to this incredibly arcane topic, but in the long run, you’ve just spent the last ten years of your life creating a beautifully packaged doorstop that should function for years to come.”

And maybe I’m displaying my own ignorance here, and I never mind doing that. It’s how I learn, when I have an open mind to do so. Hilarious to me are comments that people make about Citizen Kane: “It’s all clich├ęs.” No, dummy. It created the form. Some dude who ended up being a caricature in his later years was a Boy Genius who invented whole new worlds of filmmaking and storytelling when he was twenty-six years old.

I guess I’m opening myself up to, “Hey, Dummy.”

But reading the front matter for the Oxford World’s Classics edition of the 1922 printing confirmed my general impressions.

Joyce, after meeting only with meager publishing success to that point, went on to attempt this master work of Ulysses. But along the way, he goosed interest in the developing manuscript by letting people know how the book should be interpreted. Nearing publication and a little thereafter, he gave two different folks schemata of the book, indicating its links to the Odyssey, somewhat to Hamlet, what genres each section of the book paired up with, what colors, what body parts and functions, what times of day, and so on.

Please see:

Somewhere in the notes, the editor of this edition—obviously no slouch in the brains department—stated that without Joyce’s assistance, it’s unlikely that folks would have made any connection between Ulysses and the Odyssey, much less Hamlet.

And there’s more than a little of the following mind-set involved for the readers, too:

Joyce not only gave the world a new way to look at novels; he gave the world a particular piece of work and enough semi-informative and occasionally contradictory data to goose enough critical interest in this book to last forever, obviously.

Some of Ulysses is beautiful. It’s all challenging. It’s an amazing accomplishment. But Joyce’s greater accomplishment still, as far as I’m concerned, was in marketing.

No one needed schema to figure out Citizen Kane. And did Joyce really have all that stuff in mind before he wrote the damn thing? Call me skeptical.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

More Interludes Than Running Text

A book designer and I have worked together for years, occasionally contentiously, but I think that often came from the stress of dealing with mutual clients who really have no idea what they're doing. And that's OK; we're professionals with decades of experience doing this kind of work, and they are not.

One book series we worked on, or tried to, came from an author who didn't understand that most good books have a story -- you know, a beginning, a middle, and an end. When things work out really nicely, even individual chapters read that way.

This author would include so many sidebars and boxes and pull quotes and illustrations that determining the actual theme of the book became damn near impossible. As a copyeditor, that's a problem for me, because part of my job is coding the text: instructing the designer how each element of the book should be treated. When a chapter is 75 percent non-body-text, it's a sign of bad organization.

As much as my book designer pal and I tried to explain it to the author, the concept never really seemed to sink in.

Another problem is that this author is the type who wants to sit down with a designer and create each page to accommodate all the switches and turns. That might have been OK decades ago. No one has the time anymore. It's an age of specialists. And if you're an author reading this, take away this one fact: In a perfect world, the person designing your book should never have to read a word of it, nor care in the least what the book is about. The text should arrive at the designer's coded and ready to go.

And here's a little secret, too: I don't really care what your book is about either. When an author asks if I want to know what a project is about, I'll generally say, "It doesn't really matter, but if you want to tell me, go ahead."

What's my point? I have a few.

A. I'm too busy to be writing this blog entry. But I'm avoiding a very particular project. Why am I avoiding that project? Because it involves me getting down and dirty with artwork. Czar don't do artwork -- at least not with a smile on my face. But I know that once I get started, it'll be easy and I won't dread it next time . . . that is, unless I wait for the muscle memory to fade.

B. If you came here expecting the further tales of Ulysses, it's going to have to wait. I might just go Raoul Duke and start repurposing emails I sent during the course of the project to some of my pals. It's a story that must be told, because it informs much of what I do. That is, how do I approach a stack of paper when my goal is reaching the bottom of that stack of paper in the most efficient manner, regardless of its content?

For example, I just finished working on a collection of short stories and poems -- the kind of stuff I studiously avoid in the New Yorker, because fiction and poetry ain't my bag. But what do I do when I'm in the middle of a really intense short story and I don't want to turn the page because I'm already emotional as hell and living on the edge, and nothing at all can send me into weeping spasms? I was reading one story in particular, and I was in good page-turning, moneymaking mode, and I got to a point where I didn't want to know what was going to happen next -- because I didn't know how my fragile psyche would respond.

That's a good story. My usual metric for whether I like the fiction (novels) I'm paid to read is if I care about what happens to the characters by about 30 pages into the manuscript. In a short story, though, that number of pages is vastly compressed.

Frankly, I never had that feeling about Ulysses. But I personally don't think that Joyce's book was designed to make readers care about those characters either. Maybe I'm wrong.

C. I've said this three times today to different people: Anyone who is good at what they do seems absolutely exhausted these days. And the exhaustion just seems to attract more work. There's really no way out.

But . . .

I just lined up 5 days at the Abbey of Gethsemani. Early October.

If you see me there, ignore me. I promise you I'll do my best to give you the same treatment.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Art of the Snarky Query

Trying to do a week's worth of work in a day, so not much time for a post. I don't feel right leaving that haiku stuff up too long, especially as it spills into another Haiku Monday -- which, if you're playing at home, is available at Fishy's fine pond this week.

In the meantime, I offer an email I just sent to a managing editor, one who fears showing up in this column of the blog. But that's what she gets for loading me down with crazy, though remunerative, deadlines.

Ah, the power of the virtual press.


Just a few to get your heart started. And this is a second edition, huh?

page 36, line 2: uppercase bible.

page 39: Hitler's first name was Adolf. Adolph's is a brand of meat tenderizer.

page 42: period at end of paragraph.

page 48: you can't elide digits on BCE numbers, for very obvious reasons.

page 51: with the script, it's a little hard to discern, but I'm about 99 percent sure that seder plate is upside down. the three-letter word on the plate is the Hebrew pesach, and it should read correctly in the photo

Good thing I'm not reading this book too carefully. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Haiku Monday: Just Like the Lottery: You Can't Win If You Don't Play

So many thoughts and themes.

It’s been a long time since I’ve hosted, and I’m going to echo what previous hosts have been saying lately: More and more of the enjoyment from this weekly parade comes from seeing what people whose personalities we know do with a topic — or do at all — rather than the actual execution.

Too, as Woody Allen or Albert Einstein or Yogi Berra said, “Ninety percent of life is showing up.”

The return of Fleur. Chickory breaking her hiatus. (Thanks to you both.) Aunty, Aunty, Aunty . . . was your finger hovering over the Publish key, waiting for 11:59pm to strike? Priceless. And Kristen, thanks to you, too, for joining us for recess. It seems that no one has time for HM, but here we are again.

Thanks to all for meeting the deadline. Delivering this blog posting might be the only deadline I make all week.

[What’s my life been like? Let’s just say that 19-hour workdays, not eating, and an inability to achieve any kind of deep sleep (but waking up drenched in sweat) is a wonderful weight-loss plan.]

So, yeah, it’s as much about the people as the poetry; the collective wisdom of what people have to say about a topic is so damn instructive.

* * *

My takeaway from this week’s entries is that unless you’re very young or not human at all, play (as a verb) comes fraught with peril and maybe pain — from Fleur’s hard landing to Serendipity’s preseason march (and the forecast of pain for lugging the beast back to camp) to Becca’s incredibly ominous “be careful where you bleed” to Rafa baring his “charms.” CoreyJo addresses the addiction aspect of HM, and even good addictions can be intrusive. (Czar to self: Get to work! It’s already 5:30am! You’ve been up two hours and haven’t turned a billable page yet!)

And bad addictions, which typically start out as play? Don’t get me started.

So, who can enjoy relatively unfettered play? Shadows and trees (Grins); squealing cousins in summertime (Fishy); grasshoppers (Chickory); ravens and martins (Serendipity and Kristen, respectively).

Caveat: Even — or especially — childhood play can come with its bumps and bruises, as Fleur attests. And here’s where knowing the players (oops!) gets interesting. If someone else, some unknown, had submitted Fleur’s entry . . . fine. But knowing Fleur’s haiku history, is it possible to read about two people in joyous rhythm, then with a sudden end, as anything but metaphor?

* * *

I’ve mentioned that my son is an actor, so when I hear the word “play” these days, my mind goes to the stage, and I’ve experienced far greater catharsis in a theatre’s setting than just about anywhere else. Plays are about conflict. No conflict, no play (or at least not a very good one).

Conflict? You want conflict? Where else but this crowd can a host throw out the word “play” and the first three submitted words are “a nuclear war,” and it’s right on topic (Karl)?

Catharsis? Becca addresses the tears in the ultimate final scene — but what really nailed me with Becca’s verse is that, as any member of my family will tell you, at some point at every play I cry (if not empty the tear ducts). It’s the emotion of live performance, the joy of seeing something done well, sometimes even the content of the play itself (or now, seeing my son on stage living his dream [I’m crying as I type; yes, I am]).

I cried (finally) at my mother's funeral, but nowhere near as hard as I've cried in a theatre. And, as part of czar family lore, I remember hearing that my mother was so overwhelmed at seeing Camelot on Broadway back in the early to mid-60s that she needed to be carried from the theatre.

The most cathartic moment ever in a theatre for me was watching my younger (nonactor) son, as a high school sophomore, as Pippin — for a million reasons. If I had time, and if you had time, I’d tell you the tale. But, as I've learned this week through all of you, the reality of "play" in any of its forms can be a bit brutal. (And knowing what my parents' marriage was turning out to be at that time, I suspect ma czar was carrying more than a little emotion in with her, as was I at Pippin.)
Play can be hard. Look at Jon’s words: “screaming,” “unmerciful hammering.” And how much pain went into being able to play like that? (Oops, I’m back to verbs. I’m off the clock. So shoot me.)

* * *

Parting comments:

“Childhood’s popsicle”: Great, Grins.

“The fountain of youth”: Chickory, the czarina told me the other day that she saw a cartoon of a man at a fork in the road with two signs. One said “Fountain of Youth”; the other said “Bacon.” Now, that’s a tough choice. But if I’m reading you right, obligations lead straight to the grave. Wow. And I agree entirely.

“Twirling laughter sky”: Love it, Kristen. Always the kind of phrase that seems to grab the host’s attention.

 * * *

I need to wrap this up. Even facing a 19-hour day, I can avoid work with the best of them.

* * *

A friend has written and directed a new play, which will be performed this week at the New York Fringe Festival (Fleur, you should go see it; if you’re interested, I’ll get details). But the apparent theme of the play (which I’d never pick up on, because my friend’s IQ is about 80 points higher than mine) is that we become what we fear.

I’ve never been playful in any traditional sense of the word. Ever. Not in the hopping-skipping-jumping-fancy free sense. But that’s what immediately comes to mind when I hear the word. 

Maybe I fear the verb “play.” And maybe my fear went out over the series of tubes. Because what I’m learning from these entries is that, for everyone, play isn’t as playful as it sounds. As a verb, it often involves some pain. As a noun: catharsis, war, death.

Unless you’re damn, damn lucky.

* * *

Oh. Did someone win this week? Yeah. That would be Fishy with her seventeen-syllable evocation of the Bard's A Midsummer Night's Dream:

B’neath light of moon
Oberon’s mischief reveals
William’s Summer farce

Thanks, everybody. I wish I could write this stuff all day. Or sleep and eat. Or do anything else but what the rest of the day holds in store. Like play . . . although now I'm not so sure.

Love you all. Really.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Haiku Monday, 8/6/2012

I have no idea what I’m doing here — in the winner’s position.

I think the incomparable RafaDe granted me a Haiku Monday achievement/participation award -- like the ribbon you give at summer's end for the camper who showed up every day, had enough grit to finish the race every time, but never really had a chance in hell of beating the kids who clearly could run faster and jump higher.

Thus, I’m viewing this week’s hosting of Haiku Monday as receiving the poetic equivalent of a pity f—, to segue from Rafa’s parting imagery. (If you know that term, okay. If not, don’t worry about it.)

And you know what? I’ll take it.

Rafa is, after all, the host with the most post, or something like that. And I must say that of all the haikuers, Rafa somehow seems to get me, for what it’s worth. I’m not sure if that’s worse for me or him. After introducing my dear friend Fleur to this mess, who seemed to revel each week in letting the others know just how inappropriate my submission was . . . well, as Warren G. Harding said, “My friends . . . my god-damn friends.” Maybe it's best I stick with people who don't know me too well.

You can look up that Harding quote, by the way. It's real.

Damn, off-track already. Or maybe not. I’m just playing around.


This week’s word is play. Many places to go with it. As a verb, it’s never had much play for me. As a noun, the word now plays out with a revitalized meaning in my life.

Visuals. Sure, if you want. I’ll be honest: They won’t help you win, but they won’t hurt you either. If that makes me a bad guy, I can live with it.

5-7-5. I’m strict. And I may or may not request a correction for an entry that's off-count. Depends on time and mood. The syllables are your responsibility. Really, it's the only rule to follow, other than the deadline. You can do it. I'm sure of it.

Content. Whatever — as long as it relates in some way to play. And that’s a mighty wide berth.

Number. Post as many as you want, but only the first two are for judging. Put them in the comments section below.

Deadline: 12:01am, Tuesday, EDT.

Host’s promise: A winner announced on Tuesday, following the instructions of the judge in William Burroughs’s Naked Lunch: "Be just, and if you can’t be just, be arbitrary."