Friday, July 13, 2012

Pulitzers and Editors

My favourite paragraph from interesting piece on why there was no Pulitzer prize for 2012:
It seemed, too, that a Pulitzer for “The Pale King” would be, by implication, an acknowledgement not only of Wallace but also of Michael Pietsch, the editor. As a novelist, I well know how much difference an editor can make—and there’s no major prize given to editors. The best an editor can hope for is mention on the acknowledgments page, when, sometimes, that editor has literally rescued the book.
'Course, I don't think I'd actually like "The Pale King". I would have edited out this monstrosity of an opening sentence for a start:
Past the flannel plains and the blacktop graphs and skylines of canted rust, and past the tobacco-brown river overhung with weeping trees and coins of sunlight through them on the water downriver, to the place beyond the windbreak, where untilled fields simmer shrilly in the a.m. heat: shattercane, lamb’s-quarter, cutgrass, sawbrier, nutgrass, jimsonweed, wild mint, dandelion, foxtail, muscatine, spinecabbage, goldenrod, creeping charlie, butter-print, nightshade, ragweed, wild oat, vetch, butcher grass, invaginate volunteer beans, all heads gently nodding in a morning breeze like a mother’s soft hand on your cheek.
This is what they give Pulitzer prize for these days? Oh wait, that's right, they didn't.

But it's all an excellent example of why one has to match the editor to the manuscript/author. I'd obviously have been the wrong editor for "The Pale King"; Michael Pietsch, Pulitzer nominee though he may have been, not the right editor for "Flight of the Illynov".

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