You have been spared "Laughter" for a few posts. But I myself haven't been much spared recently. The downside of finishing most of the book by the beginning of October, but with a chapter still to write was obvious: no sooner had I got the final chapter and the afterword off my desk to California than I had the copy editor's questions, queries and edits of the rest of it.
Usually there is a nice little break, of a few weeks at least, between pressing the send button and getting the edited copy (and, of course, in the interim you get to feel rather calmly remote about what you have written). Not so this time.
But the truth is, I am a huge admirer of editors. That's partly self interested, of course. When I get to the TLS I spend my days editing other people's copy. This gives me a fairly grounded view that there is hardly any prose in the world that doesn't get better with another few pairs of eyes (even if the author doesn't always think so).
Of course, I know that some people really have it in for copy editors. And maybe there are some copy-editing dragons on autopilot out there, who indeed do go through a manuscript, style-book in hand, simply deleting any "But" that has the nerve to make its way to the start of a sentence. If so, I haven't met any for many a year.
By and large, I think most books could probably do with MORE editing not less; and that those who squeal about their prose being altered normally need to think again, and reflect on its possible defects.
On my book, over the last couple of weeks, Juliana has been a hawk-eyed gem to work with. I'm not going to agree with everything she suggests and I think, for example, that we still have to work out whether the word "gelastic" needs a gloss when it first occurs (suprisingly, perhaps, it's me that thinks it DOES, she DOESN'T ... any views welcome!). But I have been thankful that my errors and infelicities have been highlighted and queried.
Most amazing is the way that another careful reader exposes the unconscious "tics" of writing that one didn't know one had, and which it might be an idea to tone down. I had never quite realised before how often I reached for the passive voice when the active would be a lot better -- not always but often. And in what I sent off there were rather too many "nominativi pendentes" (vel sim) than I would have thought had got left in... I mean, "loving the sound of the sea, my instinct was to..." (it wasn't my instinct that loved the sound of the sea, as this formulation suggests... but it's dead easy , and jarring, error to make).
As anyone who reads this blog will know, I am not a grammar tyrant (even less an apostrophe czar). But it is very good to have a bit of expert scrutiny on one's deathless prose (and with it one's deathless argument). And I am very very grateful, even though it will take me the whole Christmas holidays to "review". AAAGGH.