Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On the Value of Editors

Max Perkins, 1943
I recently had a piece on the ABC, 'Editors: strange, misunderstood, essential'.

As an author, I collaborate with many editors.  I've been an editor myself, in the 'philosophy and popular culture' series.  Editing is an ordinary part of my job.

Yet the editorial role is often misunderstood by the reading public: it's seen as mysterious, malicious or just invisible.

In this piece, I'm hoping to shed a little light on the editor's contribution to literature, and the public sphere. A sample:
No doubt there are plenty of mediocre editors - but there are equal numbers of middle-of-the-road writers and readers too. The point is not that editors are supernatural magicians, but that the editorial role is a good and necessary one. Editors help to introduce the ideas and stories we’re talking about, and the words with which we do it. They can encourage economy in prose and expense accounts. And they often stop the whole juggernaut from collapsing under the weight of its own vanity, envy, solipsism and neurosis.
Editors are not God’s punishment. At their best, they’re the reality principle of the literary world.
(Photo: Library of Congress)

1 comment:

ireneoduffy said...

Editors are an essential part of the publishing process. Some authors embrace them and I think their books are the better for it. As an occasional freelance editor myself, I think I enjoy editing more than I enjoy writing. Somehow it's easier for me to shape than create.

My friend Bronwyn (a contributor to your newest book) was full of praise for your editing of her writing.

I can't wait to read it!