I know it must seem like I’ve been editing this book for ages. It feels like ages. I still like it quite a lot though. Really it’s amazing how each draft brings out problems that’re so large you can’t imagine how you missed them in previous drafts. Really though its that in previous drafts the problems were obscured. You needed to fix so many other problems before you could see the one you’re working on now.
When you really like a book, it’s a pleasure to see an issue with it, because with each fix, the book gets tighter and feels more like something that a person might actually read for pleasure. Writers often bemoan the way books never look, on the page, the way they do in your minds. But the truth is more complicated. The truth is that even when a book is at its most unruly, you often do perceive within it the things that will make it great. And those things often don’t substantially change throughout the various drafts.
But in that unruly stage the book also has all these other things, and taking those away feels wonderful. Not to mention that when the book gets tighter, your vision comes out more clearly, and it often comes out in a way you hadn’t anticipated. In fact, why do I even bother talking about visions? Really oftentimes in the beginning your vision is very weak. It’s only through the process of working on the book that it becomes strong.
As an aside, I find that I’m unconsciously using a sort of British diction when I write my blog posts and Facebook entries. I think it’s because of all the Trollope I’ve been reading. Lately I’ve also been listening to Jeremy Irons narrate Brideshead Revisited, and it’s simply fantastic. He is a truly marvelous audiobook narrator: he brings out all the nuances of the various characters, including their little verbal tics and mannerisms. Even people who’re only on the page for a chapter or two come out sounding so distinct.
Of course the book is fantastic as well. Very different from every other Waugh I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot). Everything in it is so understated. And then there’re the religious themes as well. The book isn’t quite satirical, either; at least not satirical at the pitch that his other books are. It’s humorous, but it’s an understated humor. The characters are funny, but they almost always feel like someone you could meet walking down the street. Well, at least if you were walking down the street in interbellum London.