One of the advantages of living in two places is that the pleasure of “coming home” to books in the “other place.” We were in our Virginia home for a few days this month, and I found a number of books that I had not seen or read in years. One of them, a particular favorite, is The Writer’s Quotation Book, edited by James Charlton. As the name implies, it is a book of quotes by various authors about books, writing, publishing, reviewing.
A small sample:
“It’s my experience that very few writers, young or old, are really seeking advice when they give out their work to be read. They want support; they want someone to say, ‘Good job.'” John Irving.
“Read over your compositions and, when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.” Samuel Johnson.
“The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as that between lightning and the lightning bug.” Mark Twain.
I have been thinking about that last point a lot as I read the page proofs: is that really the right word there? Would this be a better word? Several times I edited a page in pencil, read it again and decided, no the way it was was better. I get one more chance at the page proofs in early April, and then I shall have to leave them alone, let the publisher work its magic to turn them into the book, to be released in September. It will not be easy losing control of Seward, knowing that there are many places it could be improved.