Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Still Life with Editor

When Larry was still at that fancy pants magazine he used to edit, he liked called me up to complain about certain writers. He did this at least once a week. I got to know these writers based on his rants about them. I knew which ones who turned in single-source stories, which ones liked to copy out phrases from press releases into their stories, which ones liked to use words such as "artisan" and "hand-picked," and "iconic" to ill effect. I knew their writing because he would read me the sentences that offended him, and then he would read me the edited version so I could be impressed. And I was. 

Well, this one guy needed extra ranting. He had come to Larry with a bunch of top shelf clips. He'd written several times for a big glossy magazine, one that shall remain nameless here (except that one of the letters in the title was a "G" and another one was a "Q"), and had demanded $2.50 a word. Now Larry was sitting at his desk, looking at the results. This really expensive thoroughbred writer couldn't seem to lay his hands on a single fact. He couldn't complete a thought, couldn't match up the subjects and the verbs correctly, couldn't spell, and couldn't quite figure out where to put the commas, either. 

"Why aren't you a millionaire in this profession," Larry asked me. I had no answer for this. For days after, he would call me up and read me before and after sentences. I heard them while herding Sammie to the bathroom, while folding laundry, while cooking dinner. I learned to hate this writer.

Now Larry is at home. He is doing some freelance editing, and the word is out. He's getting calls from people who need a good line editor. And there is no one better. Truly. 

Mostly, he's editing me, but not on paper. I should be so lucky. Rather, he's editing our conversations. Yesterday, we walked the kids down to the center in that dead time between school and dinner. The G-man was on his scooter zooming ahead of us and then coming back. Larry asked if that was okay. I said, "Yeah, he roams further and further ahead. Then he comes back. He knows." Then I felt a nervous pang. "Farther," I said. 

"I was so totally going to correct you there," said Larry. Yeah, I know. (In fact, he doesn't read this or any blog because the sea of unedited copy makes his belly flip. He read it once, months ago, and then called me with a list of before and after sentences. I'm pretty sure I hung up on him. Then I made the changes he suggested.)

What's worse is that he edits the broadcasters during Red Sox games. And the ads. Turns out the modifier "only" is incorrectly placed in most television ad copy. Ask me how I know. Sometimes I get sucked in and ask him how he would rewrite this or that ad. Let me tell you, when you are in bed with your husband and the two of you are dissecting a sentence that was uttered in a Dunkin Donuts commercial from twelve hours ago, well that's a new brand of crazy.

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