The books that sit on the shelves of our libraries are the result of a group effort. A trusting pact between writer and the editor.
This month, I offer you this literary juxtaposition: Try reading with an appreciation of the silent partner, the editor. What is omitted, massaged and rearranged allow for the reader to understand a story with its best clarity and presentation.
Perhaps you’ve seen the film Genius starring Colin Firth, Jude Law and Nicole Kidman. I’m horrified and thrilled that the story of Maxwell Perkins has finally made it to the cinema. Thrilled because I love literature, so Genius is a gimme. Horrified because it is so miscast. What’s a book lover to do?
Go to the library and check out the wonderful cannon of literature that stand as Maxwell Perkins legacy.
Known as an “author’s editor,” Maxwell Perkins is responsible for discovering F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe. Perkins took, Look Homeward Angel and trimmed a whopping 80,000 words from the original manuscript, O Lost. Not an easy task when your author is married to every single word.
Maxwell Perkins was humble, courteous and detailed oriented. He was able to glean and weave and nurture authors and their prose. Not only an advocate, Perkins was a true friend and an honest critic. Thanks to Perkins we have The Great Gatsby!
I urge you to read league of authors and be aware of the great collaborative magic that happens within the pages of these writers’ works. An author gets the glory. It is time for the editor to get his due.
Perkins’ authors for your consideration:
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Marjoire Keenan Rawlings
For an excellent biography of Perkins, try: A. Scott Berg’s Max Perkins: Editor of Genius
Do you have a Perkins’ favorite?
Let me know!