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.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Process: Ulysses 2

Except for a three-and-a-half-year break when I was in college, I’ve been proofreading one way or the other since I was 14 years old. I’m 52 now. Seen a lot of stuff. The progression has been more or less orderly.

I also copyedit and index, but proofreading’s the one whut brung me.

My older son is an actor, just out of college, and as of the beginning of this summer had a year’s worth of paying acting work ahead of him. (Hallelujah.) I spoke with him a few days ago and asked, “Do you enjoy it now? The routine of the work and the rhythm of the day? It’s different doing a show 30 times instead of five, and rehearsing three or four other things at the same time. Are you enjoying it? Can you see yourself doing it for many years to come?”

His answer was an unequivocal yes, and I can understand it. My first job out of college was proofreading airline timetables and lottery tickets. Sometimes 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Once went 42 days without a day off.

Of course, that’s my life now, but it’s different having an employer say, “No weekend this weekend, and oh, by the way, 12-hour days.” And that’s about how it went down. Fait accompli.

It's also a little different when you're 21 years old without a responsibility in the world.

Anyway, I finally left the company, but my next job was another proofreading gig, and every job since has had an element of proofreading in there. I obviously enjoy the work and figured I’d seen about everything in the last four decades.

* * *

I’m going to deviate from this blog’s norm for this coming series of entries by naming company, author, and title. As Finnley Wren said, “I didn’t mean to bring this up again. You’ll forgive the reference? It’s an intrinsic part of the story.”

Some months back, Oxford University Press contacted me to help in producing an ebook of the Oxford World’s Classics edition of the 1922 text of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

I thought reading Ulysses would be enough of a challenge, much less proofreading it. I’d heard about it all my life as one of the great unread pieces of literature -- unread because of its difficulty.

But I have to read it. Difficulty is no more of an issue than for books of systematic theology I indexed in which I barely understood a word. The work must be done.

What are the rules for this game? Make three Word files created from scans of a printed volume match every single jot and tittle in an acknowledged world masterpiece, along with 50 pages of introductory matter and 250 pages of explanatory notes.

The 1922 Shakespeare and Co. edition of Ulysses has about 4,000 known errors (typographical, factual, intentional, unintentional), all of which need to remain in the book.

Thus, the task is to make an electronic file match a printed book exactly. The goal is a one-to-one reproduction of 980 pages, from a troublesome scan resulting from small type, italics, and 90-year-old Continental typesetting standards that probably did not match the author’s intent, as subsequent editions showed. The job is not to put out the best or the most authoritative version of Ulysses; the job is to create an electronic version of an existing book.

And it’s James Joyce’s Ulysses, for god’s sake. Even if it’s exactly right, it might not be exactly right. And it's being done for Oxford University Press. While I treat every job that comes across my desk the same, I'd be lying if I didn't say this one came with a bit of a higher expectation than most.

Long way from airline timetables and McDonald's scratch-off games. And I thought the novel would be the hard part of the project.

No way. Here’s a marked-up page of the explanatory notes, and it's not the worst, only the most quickly available.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.


Aunty Belle said...

Dear God!
I'll pray fer ya'.

czar said...

@Aunty: Thanks. At this point it's all over but the shouting, but there's plenty of that to come.

moi said...

Well, you know how I feel about Joyce, so I won't bother to exclaim further over your fortitude. I would have long ago plucked out mine own eyes so as to avoid their offense. Careful, though, next thing you know, Oxford may hire you for the Sound and Fury.