Wednesday, September 05, 2007

... Page Proofs Coming ... Presses Humming ...

Could be today. Could be tomorrow. UPS will deliver page proofs for my book Fall of the Big Top; The Vanishing American Circus, and I will see it finally in print. That’s always a thrill — photo images on pages, type style selection, chapter headings. Here comes my LAST CHANCE to make any changes. Few will be made at this last-see point. A real regret is that since I won’t see Circus Vargas until after I examine, pass on and return the proofs to McFarland, there won’t be the chance I had hoped for to add a line or two about their current edition ... And what if it’s wonderful? Another spangled sliver from the ever changing big top waiting for somebody’s next book to capture it forever ...

I try to root out redundant word usage (I can hear some of you laughing). I look for this and that. But at this point, this and that will have to remain fairly pat. McFarland has given me plenty of opportunities to revise and hone, and still, I will likely live to regret certain things — a sentence can be written a thousand different ways. Once off the press, it’s up to reviewers and readers to decide. Since I can dish it out, I should be able to take it, right? ... Dame Dither, where are you out there in Cyberspace? ‘Twas the Dame (a.k.a.: Judy Dieli) and her now ailing hubby, Salnatra (he sings like Frank), who first handed me down a pc they were ditching for a newer model. And here I am, blogging a few years later ...

Once bound, a book is a book is a book. You can’t go back ... The only work of mine that I would never change a single word of is my first, Behind the Big Top. It is to me so rough and raw, so much like the old tent circuses I have fondly experienced ... Not for one reviewer was it a pleasure, though. He termed my brand of big top prose “junk journalism.” Carped he, I failed to evoke the sights and smells of the circus, so I sent him a special Smell Edition, complete with sawdust and pachyderm poo off the Ringling and Carson & Barnes lots. The photo down below was sent out to 300 news outlets. My publisher (A.S Barnes), belatedly learning of the stunt, was aghast. The book sold out its first printing in around a year, but did not return to the presses. Brashness can backfire.

... My Barnes editor had handed my manuscript for copy editing over to a somebody who, maybe bored, changed only a few phrases, caught not nearly enough misspelled words (it contains dozens), and let the messy thing live. And I thank that whomever. In the wrong hands, the life might have been drained out of my personal favorite literary effort, Behind the Big Top ... Miraculously, 26 years later, Fall of the Big Top lucked out with a similarly light editing treatment — all except for grammatical errors corrected and my spelling which has been tamed. It feels almost transcendental --- as if fate itself intervened to let Fall live as Behind did. I take that as a good omen. Today, at least.

On a royal typewriter I once hammered happily away. Now, after long handing the first draft on yellow lined pads, I report to a Brother electronic from my L.A. days, then it’s show time on the computer. What a ritual. Maybe I’m each time following an evolutionary path traveled by writers who first used hand-held instruments and then advanced from one mechanical device to the next...

UPS could ring my bell any moment now. And after the initial read-through a couple of times, then comes the one task in this business which I will admit to hating: the INDEX. Even with the enormous assistance of WordPerfect, I hold my nose, buckle down into a marathon mode, and keep on going till I get to the bitter end.

Proud of my junk journalism, I’m ready for the presses to roll ... Still a thrill ...

4 comments:

Pat Cashin said...

I just pre-ordered at amazon.com.

I can't wait to read it! Do you need someone to write a glowing blurb for the dustjacket? Just let me know.

~Pat

P.S. Do you think that anyone at McFarland is interested in a picture book on American circus clowns? If they are, let's talk ; )

Showbiz David said...

Your faith in my book, Pat, is breathtaking. Jacket-back cover copy already set, but thanks!

Honestly, I can't see McFarland going for an all-picture book, but you never know; they publish a lot of books on performing arts, so you might go to www.mcfarlandpub.com, click onto "authors," then "sumbission" guidelines, and e-mail one of the editors listed. (My editor just left.) Good luck!

henry edgar said...

i can't wait. i've loved all your books. and when i was at The Daily Press in virginia, your publisher used quoted from my review all over the place. ( i think it was a quoteb that said something like "the best circus book ever published")

Showbiz David said...

What an uplifting message on a murderous Sunday morning, Henry! I am not even half way through the index, I am about to commit myself to the nuthouse. There are so many entries, I wonder if I've written a history of the world. And my Wordprocesser, doing strange things, may be going crazy too. NOW I think I know why I wondered if I had not heard of your name before. Yes, a great review by you of BTBT? I will check later. Anyway, thanks for your wonderful words. Back to the alphabetic torture chamber where I, the world's worst speller, should never be allowed. Pray that I will not offend too many people.