Just before new term hits, I’ve finished editing one book (New Light on Tony Harrison, OUP) and co-editing another (Greek Theatre and Performance around the Ancient Black Sea, CUP).
The work of editors of themed collections, a format which has much enhanced and publicised international collaborative research in Classics, is inspiring, arduous, and occasionally downright irritating.
|Tragic Chorus in a Vase from Olbia, Ukraine|
Allow me a whimper after a sweaty August at the keyboard. There is an etiquette about how to talk to one’s editor. Here are my top nine grumbles, in case they help less experienced colleagues:
1 Writing, ‘I haven’t checked all the references to the ancient text—could you help out as I’m very busy’ (especially irritating from a retired person).
2 Writing, ‘I expect some of the dates in my bibliography are wrong—could you help out as I’m very busy’ (ditto).
3 Writing in a footnote, ‘There have been no studies published of this issue’, when you as editor published a prize-winning monograph on the topic four years ago.
4 When citing twenty publications, including eighteen of your own and only two by other scholars.
5 In the ‘Biographical Notes’ section, requiring your editor to change the entire entry under your name no fewer than five times when you’ve given another lecture.
6 At proof stage, when the book is already being indexed so pagination can’t be changed, inserting large chunks of new text without even an apology.
7 When requiring several images, saying at the last minute that you need the editors to find sums in three and even four figures to pay for reproduction permissions and demanding that the editor write to the museums and galleries themselves.
8 Being rude about corrections the editor has made, when they are simply rectifying factual falsehoods or grammatical errors. Disputing the English-speaking editor's grasp of English idiom when it is your second language incurs special animosity.
9 Using bullying language in correspondence beginning with phrases like ‘Only a fool could fail to see that…’
Most contributors do none of these. Some even add lovely footnotes thanking the editor for all their hard work and attentiveness. But some do all of them, and yes, it’s usually more senior colleagues who narcissistically exploit their supposed eminence to justify their shocking manners.
Of course I’m not naming any names, but, as the watchman says in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon. ‘A big bull stands on my tongue... I'm happy to speak to those who understand, and be taken no notice of by those who don’t'.
I'm only ever editing one more collection, and that solely because it's already under contract (on Aristophanes' comedy). Posting this blog means I've made that resolution publicly!