Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Editors, handwritten books, cabin fever

Three bulletins. First, in the Times of London, Michael Fishwick goes to bat for that endangered species, the old-fashioned, blue-pencil-wielding editor. Fishwick--an editor himself, who recently moved from a longtime berth at HarperCollins to Bloomsbury--insists that his profession is thriving against all odds. What's more, he argues that the purely managerial demands of the job are enough to scare the pleated khakis off your average M.B.A.:
The editor has one of the toughest (and most pleasurable and rewarding) of jobs in publishing, keeping happy maybe a hundred wonderful, emotional, fractious, headstrong writers, people who are putting their lives and their careers on the line in their writing. That’s real management. Authors are not employees who can be whipped into line with a threatened P45; they are understandably demanding and anxious and life enhancing.

Opportunist, friend, champion, textual wizard; the editor has not diminished but on the contrary grown mightily. And there are many who achieve this complicated high-wire act magnificently.
Next up, the Islamic Republic of Iran. They've got nuclear capabilities, they've got a Holocaust denier for a president--and they've got more handwritten books than anybody else in the world. According to this piece on the IranMania site, the accumulated collections at the Iran National Library, Ayatollah Marashi Library and a number of other private libraries have now hit the 400,000 mark, beating out the previous contender (Turkey, with a meager 300,000 volumes.)

Finally, a notable bargain on a prewar studio, with exposed beams and a working fireplace. Yes, according to Stephen Manning's AP article, Uncle Tom's cabin has been sold:
In the brisk Washington real estate market, the white colonial was an easy sale--three bedrooms, easy access to a major commuting route and an acre of land, a rarity in the tightly packed suburbs. However, the 18th-century house had one thing the McMansions could never claim--the original Uncle Tom's cabin.
As you can see in the photo, the cabin, made of split oak beams, is attached to the side of the house. It was once occupied by Josiah Henson, the model for Harriet Beecher Stowe's character, although Henson displayed little of Uncle Tom's famous subservience: he escaped to Canada with his family via the Underground Railroad in 1830, and later founded a settlement for fugitive slaves in Dresden, Ontario. The entire property has been purchased by Maryland's Montgomery County, with an eye to preserving the historical landmark in a seemly fashion. "We don't want it to turn into a dentist's office," said Peggy Erickson, executive director of a local heritage agency.

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