23 February 2010

In praise of copy editors

We're in the final stretch with two monographs. Today I went through the copy editor's review of one. Although doing the pickups is laborious, it's obviously far better to deal with them now than to wince in pain discovering them later. Through painful experience, we've learned to build in time for not just one, but at least two and sometimes three rounds of copy editing, depending on how much the text has changed. Two rounds are the minimum because the process of ragging the text (on the layout) often introduces glitches that are not apparent beforehand. (By the time we're done, we will have gone through four rounds. The goal is to minimize if not eliminate changes while the books are on press.)

20 February 2010

Another blog

Earlier today, prompted by a comment made by an editor at Arcade, I started a new blog, Quotes & Thoughts, that continues a compendium that I mostly wrote in Spain in April 2008. (Found in Common Place 1, if you're interested.) The theme of Q&T is "commentary on things read and heard."


Last week, I went to hear the poet Charles Stein read at Moe's Books in Berkeley. He's my daughter's neighbor, so I had an introduction. Talking with him, I mentioned that I was writing sonnets. "When I was in college," he replied, "my roommate and I used to compete to see who could write them faster." Stein writes remarkably long, convoluted, and difficult poems. He's also translated the Odyssey, which I really liked.

Polemics (3)

I rewrote my polemic, and then revised it again for blog use. I realized after doing this that I preferred that version, whether it appears in a blog or in print. It gets to the point faster. My writer friend Kenneth Caldwell was kind enough to offer editorial advice along the way. It's always interesting to see how others look at something I've written - what they question, and what they feel are the main points. I wrote something for Arcade recently. Sending it off to the editor, I realized I had no idea if it was any good. She thought it was. Others will have to weigh in when it appears.

17 February 2010

Burj speculation

The "Eavesdrop" column of the current Architect's Newspaper (NY edition) mentions Adrian Smith's complaint that SOM is failing to credit him as the design partner for the Burj. My own theory is that the NY office felt that the Burj was a dog, and were therefore content to let Smith have the credit and take the fall. When it unexpectedly proved to be a hit, NY moved quickly to erase Smith from the picture. The obvious question AN should pose back: So who designed it, then?

Polemics (2)

Although tempted to send off my revised polemical piece, I decided (quite uncharacteristically) to let it sit for 24 hours, and saw another way in to the topic that seems better. In the meantime, an editor who'd seen the previous two drafts asked if her publication could run it. Not quite sure what lesson to draw from this, other than the perennial one that it takes time to develop an argument, let alone argue it persuasively.

15 February 2010


I wrote an opinion piece today about a proposed tower in SF. My first draft lit into the architect, a fount of mediocrity. After considering the actual audience I'm trying to influence - planning commissioners - I rewrote the piece to give them a reason to stall. I felt, in between the two versions, that the first was playing to the gallery, and its polemical opening would be brushed off as "beside the point." Design quality is strictly optional in most development in SF. The tower ignores a lot of zoning strictures, which the architect says are unwarranted constraints in 2010. Fine, I now argue, let's address that issue first, then we can look at your tower.

10 February 2010

Books and e-books

Tuesday's FT had a full-page discussion by David Gelles and Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson of e-readers, e-books, and the publisher revolt against Amazon's loss-leader strategy to hook people on its Kindle. The gist: Publishers are ecstatic that Apple has entered the fray. They want competition, and they're trying to force Amazon to accept the bookstore pricing model, which gives most of the money to them. The dust-up between Amazon and Macmillan was the opening move. (Amazon blinked.) Now Rupert Murdoch, owner of Harper Collins, is weighing in, criticizing Amazon's below-cost pricing. The question for me is, where does this leave bookstores? The FT writers say that "this will kill that" (to quote Victor Hugo) - e-books will wreck the bookseller model. But they note that publishers want bookstores to continue, because they're a known commodity. From my own involvement with a Berkeley bookstore, I would say that the terms of trade for smaller bookstores especially is highly unfavorable. What will publishers do to help them endure? One thing that comes to mind is a "Buy the book, get the download free" offer. This might be especially attractive to an academic audience.

07 February 2010


My Brooklyn-based writer friend Christine Van Lenten, noting that Writing & Design is about "shoptalk," recalled that when Picasso was asked what he talked about with other artists, he answered, "Where can I get some really good blue paint?"

03 February 2010

Bill Stout & Peter Miller

I went to a talk on Tuesday (2.2.10) in SF with the booksellers Bill Stout (of SF, also a publisher) and Peter Miller (of Seattle), both specialists in architecture and design. Although Bill out-talked Peter 6:1, Peter made the point that the iPad, etc. may end up turning everything ephemeral that's now in print into digital form. The analogy (noted later by Mark Coleman) is direct-to-DVD movies. That would leave print as "discernment," with publishers doing the heavy lifting. In other words, printed books and journals would be keepers. Everything else would be through-put. I liked this.