Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Spear of Destiny

I'm working this afternoon. Dig's bundled the kids into the car to take them to the playbarn at the local farm. He says he's only going down the slide so he can teach them about mass.

So I'm left in the office all alone. This seems like fun at first. I can eat the children's smarties. I can dance about to Talking Heads. I can leave messages on Oo's answerphone. I can cruise around the iTunes store for my ipod. But at some point, I have to get on with something. Dig'll be back at six and I suppose leaving me here so I can typeset the 'very urgent book that must be done by the weekend' needs to count for something. It's how I get paid.

Now it takes me half an hour of grinding my teeth and slamming papers around the desk the moment I see this unreadable pile of drivel. No wonder I have to turn up the volume on Siouxsie and the Banshees and march about eating chocolate.

First on the list of crimes commited by authors expecting to get their books copyedited, set, proofread and printed all in one week is sending 42 different email files to Dig, with little notes attached to each one, saying things like 'This supersedes the others' and 'This is the correct version now' and 'Did you get the corrections I sent you last week by post?'. Those authors go to the back of the queue, i.e. in the pile on the floor which I routinely trip over and send all the papers sliding around while I'm jumping about to the La's.

Then there are the authors who are design illiterate. They feel they need to emphasise words. Lots of words. They usually start with italics. But soon italics don't seems quite enough. Then they use bold. Soon enough it's italics and bold, then off we go into CAPS with added underline. Unfortunately all the typesetting options they needed to set their technical examples have been used up by then, so they start drawing boxes and bubbles around words. And if we suggest changing anything, they get up on high horses and make things up to cover their appalling design ignorance, so they'll say things like 'I want my bold. It's standard 1990s Dicendrian practice and supersedes the Ecuweedian system. So there'.

Then there's the authors who can't make up their minds. They send one version by paper, and then a different version electronically, with the same title of course, so we don't know which book to set. One author was doing fine until he got to the conclusions and then supplied two different endings, which came to different conclusions.

So I'm plugged into the Mission and contemplating the pile of dross on my office desk that the world would be better without, and I'm thinking how wonderful it must be to be able to create a thing of beauty, like a fine piece of music or a delicate picture, or moving words on a page. If I could be aged 17 again, I might try. But now, faced with setting 500 pages of the grammatical significances of the prefix ex- I might just turn up the volume on The Cure and scoff chocolate.

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