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Thread: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

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    Default Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    Old book stores yield treasures. I was fortunate to come across a students book edition of Moby Dick. There were numerous under linings and notes through out the pages of the book.

    There were at least three publications of this masterpiece . One American in 1851 and about the same time by British publishers Also a later version in 1988 All were tinkered with by editors some with their versions of just what Melville meant.

    (Sample attached)Moby Dick obstetrics.jpg


    Can editors really toy with writers work and improve the authors intent, or should they just stick to grammar and spelling errors?

    Sorry for the troll but maybe it will surface some interesting comments.

    JD
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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    A good editor can most certainly improve a piece of writing. And if not "improve" certainly change it significantly. Raymond Carver, I think, is one writer whose style as most readers encounter it was shaped in part by his editors along with the writer himself.

    In the end, any book becomes what the reader makes of it. Authors lose sole ownership after publication.

    Tom
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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    There is a BIG difference between what a book editor does and what a copyeditor (grammar, punctuation, etc) does.

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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    Rev. Bowdler was big in those days.
    Xanthorrea

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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    Quote Originally Posted by purri View Post
    Rev. Bowdler was big in those days.
    My thoughts as well.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    A good editor will consult with and coach the writer. A bad one thinks he knows better and rewrites
    -Dave

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    Default

    The above all applies.

    Additionally, one sells the book and it becomes the publisher's property, ( at least for a time)and it may have a message to convey that the author did not.

    Kevin


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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    A good editor can most certainly improve a piece of writing.
    Maybe a crappy writer but Melville ? Hemingway ? Walt Whitman ? F Scott Fitzgerald ? I don't think so.

    It's especially insulting when the author has been dead for a hundred years. This is like Walt Disney "improving" the Jungle Book.

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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    Quote Originally Posted by Breakaway View Post
    The above all applies.

    Additionally, one sells the book and it becomes the publisher's property, ( at least for a time)and it may have a message to convey that the author did not.
    That's not quite right. The author retains copyright and ownership; the publisher buys the rights to publish and distribute the book.

    Tom
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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    Quote Originally Posted by Favorite View Post
    Maybe a crappy writer but Melville ? Hemingway ? Walt Whitman ? F Scott Fitzgerald ? I don't think so.
    But you're wrong. Two of the writers you mentioned worked extensively with Maxwell Perkins, for example. Readers see the finished product, which in most cases has been involved some degree of collaboration between writer and editor.

    Tom
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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    But you're wrong. Two of the writers you mentioned worked extensively with Maxwell Perkins, for example.
    While they were alive ! Also, before it was published ! as a finished work !

    Maxxie didn't come along a hundred years later and decide he was going to improve this. Also, he didn't make changes. He made suggestions. The authors made the changes or they decided not to. It's not the same at all.

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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    Quote Originally Posted by J. Dillon View Post

    (Sample attached)Moby Dick obstetrics.jpg


    Can editors really toy with writers work and improve the authors intent, or should they just stick to grammar and spelling errors?
    Two answers, given the example you've linked:

    1. I don't see how the edit improves Melville's intent. It actually obscures it.

    2. There's no accounting for the British!

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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    Quote Originally Posted by Breakaway View Post
    The above all applies.

    Additionally, one sells the book and it becomes the publisher's property, ( at least for a time)and it may have a message to convey that the author did not.

    Kevin


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    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    That's not quite right. The author retains copyright and ownership; the publisher buys the rights to publish and distribute the book.

    Tom
    The publisher has all of the finanial skin in the game. He will not risk losing money by offending potential customers. So there are three choices. Publish as written and risk a loss, make minor changes and protect the investment, turn down the book and leave it unpublished.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    Quote Originally Posted by rbgarr View Post
    Two answers, given the example you've linked:

    1. I don't see how the edit improves Melville's intent. It actually obscures it.

    2. There's no accounting for the British of 1850!
    Context my boy, context.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    Quote Originally Posted by Favorite View Post
    Maybe a crappy writer but Melville ? Hemingway ? Walt Whitman ? F Scott Fitzgerald ? I don't think so.

    It's especially insulting when the author has been dead for a hundred years. This is like Walt Disney "improving" the Jungle Book.
    Yes. ALL writers are edited -- some rather extensively -- but the way it works is that the pages full of red (or blue) pencil (and they are often covered in it) are given to the writer. He/she signs off on the ones that they agree with (which are usually the majority) and then discusses and negotiates with the editor about the remaining ones. If you are a big enough star, you can win that negotiation. A writer with no reputation (and ALL writers start this way) most likely must accept the editor's final decision.

    Rarely does it come to this. Smart writers know that editors improve their writing 95% of the time.

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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    On the weekend after New Years, Moby Dick is read aloud at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. There is a gathering of scholars and quite a discussion around that event. You can probably findout anything you want to know there. https://www.whalingmuseum.org/progra...marathon-2019/ You just missed it - but next year they will do it for the 24th time...

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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    "Now let's take up the minorities in our civilization, shall we? Bigger the population, the more minorities. Don't step on the toes of the dog-lovers, the cat-lovers, doctors, lawyers, merchants, chiefs, Mormons, Baptists, Unitarians, second-generation Chinese, Swedes, Italians, Germans, Texans, Brooklynites, Irishmen, people from Oregon or Mexico. The people in this book, this play, this TV serial are not meant to represent any actual painters, cartographers, mechanics anywhere. The bigger your market, Montag, the less you handle controversy, remember that! All the minor minor minorities with their navels to be kept clean. Authors, full of evil thoughts, lock up your typewriters. They did. Magazines became a nice blend of vanilla tapioca. Books, so the damned snobbish critics said, were dishwater. No wonder books stopped selling, the critics said. But the public, knowing what it wanted, spinning happily, let the comic-books survive. And the three-dimensional sex-magazines, of course. There you have it, Montag. It didn't come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God. Today, thanks to them, you can stay happy all the time, you are allowed to read comics, the good old confessions, or trade-journals."
    "Yes, but what about the firemen, then?" asked Montag.
    "Ah." Beatty leaned forward in the faint mist of smoke from his pipe. "What more easily explained and natural? With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word `intellectual,' of course, became the swear word it deserved to be. You always dread the unfamiliar. Surely you remember the boy in your own school class who was exceptionally 'bright,' did most of the reciting and answering while the others sat like so many leaden idols, hating him. And wasn't it this bright boy you selected for beatings and tortures after hours? Of course it was. We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against. So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man's mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?
    Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

    Hope the voyage is a long one.
    May there be many a summer morning when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you come into harbors seen for the first time...

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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    The editor has, in this case, no more right to omit a sentiment than to insert one, or put words into my mouth. I do not ask anybody to adopt my opinions, but I do expect that when they ask for them to print, they will print them, or obtain my consent to their alteration or omission. I should not read many books if I thought that they had been thus expurgated. I feel this treatment to be an insult, though not intended as such, for it is to presume that I can be hired to suppress my opinions.
    Henry David Thoreau

    Hope the voyage is a long one.
    May there be many a summer morning when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you come into harbors seen for the first time...

    Ithaka, by Cavafy
    (Keeley - Sherrard translation)

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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    Thanks all for the thought full replies. Sadly in more " modern times " editors continue to tinker with a deceased author work but in ignorance in the below example.

    Mob Dick Questions editing.jpg( NN ) =1988 Northwestern-Newberry publication.

    JD
    Senior Ole Salt # 650

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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    Quote Originally Posted by Peerie Maa View Post
    The publisher has all of the finanial skin in the game. He will not risk losing money by offending potential customers. So there are three choices. Publish as written and risk a loss, make minor changes and protect the investment, turn down the book and leave it unpublished.
    Well, the writer, at least, has other options:

    Option 4: Submit to a different publisher.

    Option 5: Self-publish (writers of self-published books are often later offered contracts by "real" publishers these days: The Martian is a good example.)

    Also, the writer has SUBSTANTIAL financial interest, to the tune of years worth of work doing the actual writing (during which time he can't be earning from other jobs).

    Also also, some publishers will use the "any publicity is good publicity" and actually look for controversial books to publish.

    Tom
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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Well, the writer, at least, has other options:

    Option 4: Submit to a different publisher.

    Option 5: Self-publish (writers of self-published books are often later offered contracts by "real" publishers these days: The Martian is a good example.)

    Also, the writer has SUBSTANTIAL financial interest, to the tune of years worth of work doing the actual writing (during which time he can't be earning from other jobs).

    Also also, some publishers will use the "any publicity is good publicity" and actually look for controversial books to publish.

    Tom
    Just so.
    But apart from the slim volume of poetry, AKA Vanity publishing, self publishing used to be exorbitantly expensive. The advent of the web and ebooks will have changed that.
    I know a guy who self-published. Apart from one book funded by subscription they were 60 to 160-page paperbacks, the revenue from one paying for the printing of the next. It was his hobby, he had a good day job as well.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    When I was in college I had a similar reaction to my professors that some of you have to editors. How dare they assume to know what the author was trying to say.

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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    painting Pequod sights Moby Dick.jpgMoby Dick the chase.jpg
    The look out sights Moby Dick The spout can be seen in my painting off to the right. Ahab manages to mount the aft cabin top in his excitement.

    JD
    Senior Ole Salt # 650

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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    "a gathering of scholars" is perhaps a terminological inexactitude as to intent of the matter. Reminds me of the phrase 'academe is so vicious because the rewards are so paltry". My experiences hold true.
    Xanthorrea

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    Default Re: Melville, Moby Dick and editors

    Quote Originally Posted by purri View Post
    "a gathering of scholars" is perhaps a terminological inexactitude as to intent of the matter. Reminds me of the phrase 'academe is so vicious because the rewards are so paltry". My experiences hold true.
    If you're referring to the discussion of Moby Dick at the annual reading sponsored by the New Bedford Whaling Museum, believe me, those selected to answer questions know what they speak of. I've read at the event twice and come with the most obscure references I could find in the book to try to "stump" them... with no luck whatsoever.

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