Thursday, January 20, 2005

What's in a new book?

A new book of mine came out two days ago. It's a reference work on North-American Western authors, some serious and literary writers such as Cormac McCarthy and Paul Auster (I think "Moon Palace" is a Western), some historically important, such as Mark Twain and Cooper, and finally some prolific and influential wordsmiths, such as Zane Grey and Max Brand. It's all about translated authors, and it's a continuance of my one-man book, "Six Guns/Kuudestilaukeavat" which is about paperback Westerns. I edited the new book and there are some dozen contributors besides me.

It's a great work, breath-taking, someone might say, in its scope and grasp of the genre. There are some pretty unknown and forgotten writers, such as William MacLeod Raine and the Canadian Ralph Connor, who were important and widely read in their time. They all have had something to add to the genre. And that's why I was interested in them and took them in, even though no one has read them for ages (at least Ralph Connor who wrote religious frontier novels - in one the lumberjacks are so concerned about their alcohol consuming that they put up a temperance movement!).

So, I should be glad and burst with joy. Instead the book fills me with grief. Well, okay, that's a bit harsh word use here, but I'm feeling blue over it. There are so many mistakes. I can spot one almost in every page (well, not exactly, but that's how I feel). The entries I've written are full of bad sentences and badly chosen words. The entries other people have written have been edited sloppily (in one, I managed to put one paragraph in an entirely wrong place - it was not in a good place to begin with, but now it's in even worse!).

Someone might say that this happens with every book. Well, I haven't done that many books to be used or even hardened to the fact that there are no errorless books. Maybe I haven't done enough of them.

The Finnish novelist Mika Waltari (of the Sinuhe fame) said that he never reads his books when they come out. Maybe that's a sane thing to do. There's just that if I didn't the reference books I do, I wish someone else would do them. My new book is exactly the book I like to read. It's a book I want to browse through! Unluckily, it's by me and all the errors are because of my sloppiness.

Maybe I get over this quickly. I didn't look at the book yesterday. Tomorrow I may even place it on the shelf with other reference works. Someday I might even consult it. Hopefully I don't see an error in there.

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