Sunday, June 28, 2009

Neal Stephenson Needs An Editor

I'm reading "Snow Crash, " and for the most part really enjoying it, but I'm on page 430 of a 470 page edition and I'm pissed off. "Lay" instead of "lie" three different times so far, one of the instances in what is supposed to be a quotation from centuries ago, before this was a common grammatical mistake. Particularly odd is that the book is written in the present tense, so the only word written in the past tense in these sections is a word that is meant to be in the present tense.

I'm reading a Bantam Dell edition, a division of Random House. Um, no one proofreads this shit? I'm an editor, and there's no fucking way in hell this would get past me. It's not Stephenson's fault that he makes a common grammatical error (although I suspect he could use some grammar review, he's a good enough writer that I can see where his time would go other places.)

In terms of editing, it's not really as big a problem as the long sections where he rambles about Babel, backstory that seems to have been thrown inadvertently to the forefront (file that shit under 'research,' Neal, you have a really good story that you keep interrupting with this tedium, including quotes from George Steiner, whose own writing on this subject is far more interesting not only than your own but than the excerpts you quote.)

Ok, I was really enjoying this novel and should probably finish reading it, but god can I edit the next one? Because apparently no one edited this.


Allison Landa said...

The big guys get edited criminally little. I loved Charlie Kaufman's movies until that crappy "Synechdoche, New York." Why? BECAUSE HE WAS HIS OWN FUCKING WRITER AND DIRECTOR.

/end of rant/

Sean Craven said...

Haven't we ever talked about this before? These days it seems that the bulk of editing and proofreading is the writer's responsibility. Books do get edited by competent, devoted people -- who have very, very little time to devote to any one book.

You know how we seem to have hit a point with my book where there aren't much in the way of big critiques, just nit-picky stuff? I'm waiting until we go through the whole book for that nit-picky stuff because that's the only editing I can rely on.

And yeah, I think you should be editing fiction professionally.

As far as Stephenson, I really dug Snowcrash but I felt as though he had two novels in there and he needed to either write them separately or fuse them more thoroughly. Check out Zodiac if you want to see him write a nice lean disciplined novel.