19 February 2012

Galley proofs

Erasure - and replacement - are very visible on galley proofs, something that has disappeared with electronic publishing. Here's an example of one of Philip Roth's galleys -
Roth was asked about the last phase of writing a novel being a “crisis” in which he turns against the material and hates the work. He said that there's always this crisis, with every book: 'Months of looking at the manuscript and saying, “This is wrong—but what’s wrong?” I ask myself, “If this book were a dream, it would be a dream of what?” But when I’m asking this I’m also trying to believe in what I’ve written, to forget that it’s writing and to say, “This has taken place,” even if it hasn’t. The idea is to perceive your invention as a reality that can be understood as a dream. The idea is to turn flesh and blood into literary characters and literary characters; into flesh and blood.'

When you got to the galley proof stage, the book was almost out of your hands - the agony almost over. In the 'old days', after the manuscript went to the publisher, there would be a hiatus before the author got galley proofs - a time to step back from the MS a bit, and then a chance to make changes on the proof, perhaps at both galley and page proof stages. Nowadays, when the electronic MS is delivered, the author has pretty well seen the last of it.

Then and now, there comes a point when you just have to let go. Not so easy sometimes ... possibly harder than getting started?

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