The State of Editing in America is getting on my nerves


I’m not mad at Ann Patchett. She is, in my limited experience, excellent. And while she should accept some responsibility for what I’m about to complain on, John McPhee has persuaded me that my ire is rightly directed to the publisher and their role in checking things, making them correct.

I have been moaning lately about editorial staffs failing to back authors up (example [17], example [44]), but this one is the most shocking. This is a collection of essays—


—by a major American author published by HarperCollins. And the essay I wish to speak about "(“To the Doghouse”) was previously published in the Washington Post. Now, that version was much trimmer, but I’m pretty sure that what’s published in These Precious Days is the original version, before the newsfolk cut it down to meet inches.

Anyway, that version, if you look at it now, includes this notice:

[CORRECTION: An earlier version of this essay incorrectly stated that, in one “Peanuts” strip, Linus asked if Snoopy could come out to play, and got a rejection letter. It was Rerun, Linus’s brother, who made the request.]

This is a correct correction.

The corrected sentence did not make it into the book version.

In fact, not only is that error not corrected, but elsewhere in the essay, Rerun is referred to as “Sidecar”

which, best I can tell, is not a name anyone else has ever given Rerun in the entire history of time. This should have been an easy catch.

Anyway, I didn’t track down comics for all the times Linus appeared in the essay, but I suspect up to three other times it is actually, once again, Rerun. (We need an online Peanuts concordance. I know you have one.)

And while I guess you can claim Snoopy wrapped his own doghouse, the strip sure makes it seem like Christo wrapped it himself.

Now maybe Ms Patchett hasn’t read Peanuts since she was a kid but that’s where a good editorial staff comes in. And the fact that one error WAS ALREADY FLAGGED BY THE WASHINGTON POST makes this panoply of failure all the more embarrassing.

American editors need to step up.

It’s your job to make writers look good.

Do your job.

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