Archive for September 3, 2011

Copy Editor for Hire

September 3, 2011 Leave a comment

There’s a new copy editor available for hire. Me! I’m not sure why no one has made an offer yet. But I now have proof that I can teach The New Yorker a thing or two, and I figure that has to look good on my résumé.

Reeves Wiedeman has been posting a series of notes on the New Yorker’s blog about the US Open tennis championships taking place here in New York. Two days ago, he had a short piece about Andy Roddick with a last paragraph that had the opening sentence, “It would be a stretch to say that Roddick, two days into his twenty-ninth year, has aged gracefully.”

Now, I don’t walk around with the birth years memorized for the world’s top tennis players, but I had a feeling, and the feeling was that Roddick was two days past his twenty-ninth birthday, the number twenty-nine having been planted in Wiedeman’s brain because of that. And if my feeling were correct, then Wiedeman had mis-spoken.

I googled Roddick and found that, sure enough, his birthday is August 30, 1982, which meant, sure enough, that he turned 29 two days before Wiedeman’s post.

So what’s the point? Well, here’s how I explained it in a comment responding to the post:

I don’t wish to distract from your main point, but perhaps nonetheless it’s worth pointing out that having turned 29 two days ago, Roddick is now two days into his thirtieth year, not his twenty-ninth. When we turn a certain age, we have just completed that year in our lives, as is evident when one thinks about infants on their first birthdays.

I was nervous about posting this. I didn’t want a backlash of comments about how compulsively precise I was being. I was afraid to look again to see what new comments appeared trashing me. I tried to be courteous. But, the thing is, Wiedeman was simply wrong. Someone should tell him, no?

There’s a history to this. Back in 1998, we attended an open house at the school Joel would ultimately attend for middle and high school. The headmaster gave a talk about the school’s history, emphasizing their preparation for the year-long celebration of their upcoming 75th anniversary. They began in 1924, would turn 75 in 1999, and 1999-2000 would be the celebration year. He then described what it would be like to celebrate during the school’s 75th year.

Someone had to tell him. I took on the burden and sent an email — a long one — explaining why the school, which was free to celebrate its 75th anniversary whenever it saw fit, would in fact be celebrating it during its 76th year if it chose 1999-2000 as the year. The headmaster responded in wonder, amazed, it seemed, that anyone would think about such issues, much less write to him about them.

Had I just ruined Joel’s chances of being admitted to the school? I had months to worry about that. But it worked out. He got in, the headmaster moved on to another job, and no one spoke about celebrating the 75th year of the school during its 76th year.

How did The New Yorker respond? I didn’t think they would at all. I was more concerned with flames from readers. And I wouldn’t have had the courage to look back except that I had told Joel to look at the post and he wrote back to me about it this morning. I checked and discovered that no reader had flamed me after all. No reader had even written. There was just one comment after mine, and it was from The New Yorker itself, yesterday afternoon:

When you’re right, you’re right, rsirving. We’ve amended the sentence in question. Thanks!

Posted 9/2/2011, 3:17:08pm by tnywebedit

How about that? When you’re right, you’re right. That’s what I was thinking too. Here’s the amendment: “It would be a stretch to say that Roddick, two days after turning twenty-nine, has aged gracefully.”

I might have preferred that they keep Wiedeman’s original version and simply replace “twenty-ninth” with “thirtieth.” They chose a different direction. Regardless, it’s correct now.

I won’t work for just anyone, but I’m ready, if The New Yorker wants to hire me on. Nothing like starting at the top.

Categories: Counting, Writing


September 3, 2011 Leave a comment

I was late to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher thrillers, not reading one until Janet Maslin wrote a rave review of number 12 in the series, Nothing to Lose, in June 2008. I found it silly. But also, I couldn’t put it down except to sleep, starting one night and finishing the next afternoon. I hadn’t had that experience in years. When Gone Tomorrow came out the following May, I snapped it up. And then I began my remedial Jack Reacher reading.

Having read 12 and 13, I went back to number 9, One Shot, because it seemed to have the best reviews of the recent ones. Then I started at the beginning. I must have written about this at the time. We had arrived in Nantucket on Labor Day two years ago, our room at the inn wasn’t ready, we went into town and wandered around, and I thought, I should read another Jack Reacher novel. I went into Mitchell’s Book Corner and they had Killing Floor, Reacher #1, in paperback. So I bought it. A couple of months later, brand new Kindle in hand, I downloaded number 2, Die Trying. By this time, I was getting saturated and decided to leave off my remedial program. I would just wait for the new ones.

May 2010 brought 61 Hours and October brought Worth Dying For, two new ones almost back to back. The first of the two was maybe the best ever; the second a bit of a come down. In any case, it was again time for a rest.

The rest is almost over. On September 27, The Affair, #16, will be released.

But that’s just a few weeks too late. Here we are, about to head to Nantucket again, and I’m ready for a thriller. Not necessarily Reacher, but someone. Two days ago, I looked through the options at Amazon. I had almost settled on James Lee Burke’s most recent Dave Robicheaux novel, The Glass Rainbow, but the more I read about it, the more I realized it might be just a bit too violent for my taste. (Burke also has a new novel out on September 27.) I finally settled on picking up my remedial program and downloaded Reacher #3, Tripwire, to my Kindle.

My plan: I’m well into Charles Mann’s 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, which I wrote about a few days ago. I would finish it early in our Nantucket stay, then switch to Tripwire.

The reality: We boarded our flight to JFK early yesterday morning. I got settled in my seat, took out my Kindle, and began Tripwire. What can I do? It’s Jack Reacher. How can I resist?

The problem is, I don’t have time this weekend to read it more or less straight through, as I might have done in Nantucket. I’m not here to read. I’m here for a variety of family events, not least of which is having my sister and her husband in from Paris staying at the same hotel as us. In minutes, we’ll be off to see our parents. Then there’s a cousin’s daughter’s wedding rehearsal tonight, her wedding tomorrow. I don’t anticipate bringing my Kindle to the wedding. I should have waited.

As for violence, if you know Reacher, you know how peculiar a notion it is to pass up one book for its violence only to turn to him. There was violence aplenty in just Tripwire’s opening pages. But forget that. What I’ve come to appreciate, all the more with each book, is his character, his thought processes, and Child’s attention to detail. I find myself reading some paragraphs over and over to make sure I’ve absorbed all the subtleties of what Reacher is taking in.

I still fear overdoing it. I pre-ordered The Affair months ago. I’ll read it in a few weeks, then put Reacher aside until next summer.

Categories: Books