Friday, July 21, 2017

A new you.

People who know I work on books for a living generally have one of four reactions:

1) They still make those?

2) You, like, read?

3) I like James Patterson. (J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, etc.)

4) Cool! You get to work on books!

The last response is from people who love to read but are too young or too wise to have gotten into the publishing game. Books, like sausage and the law, are wonderful things but not too pretty in the production.

In this line, one most often works on books that one would never read if one were left on a desert island with nothing but that book, and when I say one I mean me, and when I say that book I mean 90% or so of the books I'm asked to edit. Projects are like nudists, in that it's seldom the ones you want to see that make their presence known.

On the other hand, there are wonderful serendipitous jobs where I am asked to review books I would never have pulled off the shelf but find to be completely splendid. Maybe the topic didn't seem to be of interest, or it looked like the same old tiresome tropes. But then I am so engrossed in reading them I have to remind myself I'm working so that I can continue editing, or I'll miss all the errors I'm being paid to root out.

Among the books I never enjoy, however, are health and diet books. I do plenty of cookbooks, which is why I can fancy myself to be an authority on their editing, but sad to say I only like the ones that feature food that people enjoy eating. You know, ones with titles like 100 Great Beef Recipes, or Jerky!!!!!, or Staggeringly Difficult Desserts, or Twinkie-Type Foods You Can Make at Home. Books written by desperate diet and fitness gurus are no fun at all. They don't even seem to be fun for the people who write them, judging by how sloppy they are.

I'd show you the typical table of contents for one of these books, but to avoid offending anyone who could sue me, I'll just run up a generalized one -- they all look pretty much like this:

Smoothies feature prominently.

GENERIC NEW YOU BOOK by SCARY FITNESS LADY


Foreword by Some Idiot Who May Have Slept with Author

Introduction that Only the Copy Editor Will Ever Read

My Story, or How I Came from Money and Got on TV

Why This Book Is Different (Exactly Like the Others That Have Failed You)

Learning to Love Yourself If You Change Everything You Fat Bastard

Foods that Nourish You and Those That Are from Satan's Snack Cabinet

A Chapter about Kitchen Tools to Fill Pages

Photo of Author Pretending to Eat a Vegetable While Grinning Manically

Recipes That Taste Like Water

Recipes That Taste Like Dirt

Recipes That Taste Like Bark

A Week-by-Week Meal Plan That Would Cause You to Waste Huge Amounts of Unused Food

Terrifying Overlit Photo of Author Lifting Dumbell

Workout Tips You Won't Follow

Fighting Those Excuses That I Pretend I Used to Use (Although I've Never Weighed More Than 90 Pounds in My Life)

Easy Exercises for Infants and Slugs

Moderate Exercises That Will Kill You

Advanced Exercises You Will Never Attempt

Weekly Workout Plan That Only the Copy Editor Will Read

Conclusion with Lies about Your New Life

Life-Affirming Misquotes, Wrongly Attributed

Afterword to Fill Pages

Acknowledgments to the Little People, If We Know Who They Are

Index

Generic Photo of a Vegetable 


You know, on second thought I think I would want one of these books if I were on a desert island. I might have nothing to eat but rocks and sticks, and those are their main recipe ingredients. 
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