I’M SORRY I EVER MET YOU

Boomers by Helen Andrews (Penguin, 2020) shows how little value now resides in signing a book deal with Penguin (even well before 2020). This thing was not fact-checked or in any sense vigorously edited.

I was interested only in the Camille Paglia chapter (self-evidently)

In Andrews’ cosmology, Paglia’s Glittering Images and Provocations were never published; Break, Blow, Burn exists in readers’ memories but treats them like retards (“and in 272 pages that book contains not one original insight. It is also written for the children’s table. Accommodating the general reader is one thing, interrupting your exegesis of ‘Because I Could Not Stop for Death’ to explain that tulle ‘is fine netting for veils and ballet costumes’ is something else”).

Obviously that endless sentence needed a semicolon. And here we begin an epic journey through antifa copy-editresses and their blue-haired incompetence.

  • Andrews simply gets things wrong – even facts that are readily verified online at home before submitting a manuscript.

    Her notoriety led Paglia to be profiled in Spin, the Advocate, and New York magazine, and lampooned repeatedly by the cheeky lads at Spy.

    Taking these in turn:

    1. Paglia wrote an advice column for Spy. I know, because I wrote the history. She wasn’t “lampooned.”

    2. New York in italics can be nothing but a magazine in this context.

  • Paglia was a fruit fly from an early age, as one might expect of a self-confessed Wildean.

    No, a faghag. Fruitfly (which is not two words) means a straight guy who hangs out at gay bars.

  • While Paglia was busy descanting on the erotic qualities of the Pietà, men under forty were developing erectile dysfunction at unprecedented rates from watching too much Pornhub. The average age at which a young person first sees pornography is now eleven, and what they see is far more depraved than what their parents or even older brothers grew up on. What would have been “soft core” ten years ago is now a Shakira music video. And still Paglia is blithe….

    Shirley Temple she may not be, but in the end it is Paglia who underestimated the consequences that would follow when human desires were unleashed.

    Andrews does not acknowledge the passage of decades here. Even when Paglia was writing a Salon column, home broadband barely existed and screenphones of any description did not, much less smartphones.

    Also, those men were under 40 (similarly: 11), and what they were watching was soft-core even if quoted. Anyone here know what “descanting” means right off the top of their heads? (Even learned Pagliaists?)

  • Alas, it is impossible to compare pop culture of today to culture of the past.

    Yet Andrews goes right ahead and compares the Internet of today to that of the past. I’ve been online for 30 years and could fill in this authoress on the actual history. (“I could have schooled you on the history” seems to be a theme.)

  • The hardcover sold a surprising seventeen thousand copies in its first year, and the New York publishing house Vintage bought the paperback rights for a rumored $65,000.

    No, it sold 17,000 copies. Vintage did not buy the rights for sixty-five thousand dollars, either.

  • Historians of the twenty-fifth century with three paragraphs to give to the twenty-first in their textbooks will be more likely to mention the proliferation of pornography than any living president.

    No, the 25th and 21st centuries.

  • Any thirteen-year-old with a smartphone can watch video of almost any sex act he cares to, as often as he likes, for free and in total privacy. Technology cannot bear all the blame for this. The advent of streaming video in the early years of the twenty-first century

    No, those are 13-year-olds (and the century is still 21st). But at least Andrews recognizes an “advent.”

  • But her own record as a public intellectual—sex positive, gender-bending, pornography lauding, prostitute worshipping—

    Those are all hyphenated. I suppose it’s a lost cause to explain to a 25-year-old copy-editrix that nospace-emdash-nospace does not work, not least in hyphenated appositives like these. (I repaired all the other such usages quoted here.)

  • When you ask the average humanities professor whether too many unready students might not be getting hustled into the matriculation office, he (or, statistically, she) will often wax populist

    This copy-editor (or, statistically, copy-editrix) doesn’t know how to edit copy. Then there’s the typography.

  • In a curious coincidence, after Paglia made her name telling feminists to go back to their fainting couches when they complained about sexual harassment, she was commissioned by the British Film Institute to write a book-length monograph about The Birds, a film that featured the most notorious behind-the-scenes sexual harassment in cinematic history. Alfred Hitchcock tortured Tippi Hedren on the set of The Birds – to the point that Hedren collapsed and had to see a doctor.

    The BBC made a TV movie about the whole saga in 2012, starring Toby Jones and Sienna Miller. Paglia’s book dispenses with the story in a single paragraph: “In my interview with her, Hedren rejected the widespread theories about Hitchcock’s misogynous malice. She said of the attic scene, ‘He felt very badly about it.’ ” […] Paglia simply cannot bring herself to admit that Hedren’s goddess-like self-possession was powerless to save her from having her career ruined by a sexually jealous man.

    Yet in “Hitchcock psyche found dwelling in blonde stars” (Globe and Mail, 1998.08.21), Paglia writes:

    During the production of Marnie, where Hedren plays a frigid, horse-fixated kleptomaniac (a kinky story that was clearly ahead of its time), something egregious happened between the director and his star that permanently alienated them and apparently damaged the project. The aging director’s unwanted advances may have signalled a crisis in his relations with women. Tippi Hedren was the last of his cinematically idealized projections.

    Paglia’s The Birds features quotes from her interview with Ms Hedren. Camille Paglia did fact-check her own ass. Helen Andrews did not do likewise.


I brought up all these failures, among others, to Andrews, closing with:

As an editor, I would never allow a writer to impute mental states to any living subject without running those claims by that subject and fairly encapsulating any response or lack of same. I don’t see any indication (also not in front or back matter) that you attempted to fact-check your own observations with Paglia or with Hedren. (I don’t see evidence of verificationism at all, really, given the complete absence of mention of Provocations, or, for that matter, of Glittering Images.) Please comment as to why this fundamental level of editing was apparently never even attempted, while you let some 25-year-old girl with blue hair turn every number in your manuscript into a word (yet miss a whole raft of typesetting errors).

I would certainly admit to being non-progressive, and I recognize a conservative when I see one. (I could edit authors of either pole.) You just don’t approve of pornography or of the male-styled female sexual libertinism that has been Paglia’s stock-in-trade. Or so I infer, and I am asking you for comment on that imputation of mental state right here.

Authoress Andrews could not be bothered to write back in response to my queries. But my analysis is correct: Helen Andrews isn’t just conservative, she’s Orthodox (as admitted to the What’s Left podcast). She worked for what are known as “conservative think-tanks.” The book’s author bio includes the statement “Helen Andrews is a senior editor at The American Conservative.”

Indeed no, then, Andrews really does not approve of pornography. Just say so and let your readers mentally correct for that bias.

Internet pornography is no fault of Paglia’s

…but are all of Andrews’ errors Andrews’ ? Somebody isn’t a team player.

  • I posed a bonus question to her: “What was the exact text of any and all morals clauses in your book contract, and how much did you get paid for this project all-in?”

    She didn’t answer that, either.

  • I knew all the following already, but now it is clear what you get when you sign a book contract with one of the oligopoly publishers:

    • They keep most of your money.

    • They delay your book for years.

    • They assign half-assed editors to blow through your copy and impose their lexical ideology on it (“seventeen thousand copies” [we’ve been through this already]).

      Yet these girls will be too stupid to raise red flags about requests for comment that were never filed. They’ll be ignorant, too – so much so they won’t know which books by Paglia that Helen Andrews couldn’t even bring herself to acknowledge.

    • I also know firsthand exactly which authorial rights an oligopolist publisher will violate, but I will refrain from going into detail here because I suggested both sides agree to a non-disparagement clause. But believe me, they’ll run roughshod over your rights, too. God help you if you try to buy back your own manuscript.

  • It’s even worse with Boomers: Nobody had the balls to tell this right-wing authoress what she got wrong and everything she was missing. Andrews’ harem of yes-men could never say no to her.

    Thanks also go to… my agent William Callahan, and, of course, Bria Sandford and the team at Sentinel, for mentorship, professional assistance, and friendship.

    Best two out of three, apparently. Elsewhere, Andrews’ acknowledgements:

    The first person to read many of the chapters of this book was Daniel McCarthy, as director of the Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship at the Fund for American Studies. Without his suggestions, the book would be much worse than it is, and without [their] sponsorship, it would not have been written at all. Other early readers include Andrew Ferguson, David Randall, Curtis Yarvin, and Christopher Caldwell. Their suggestions were priceless; all remaining errors are mine.

    That’s not how editing works. Moldbug and Caldwell should have spotted errors and lacunæ. Perhaps they did, and were rebuffed. If only there were a way to find out.

The obvious alternate course of action will also fall through

While one does not need a publisher to produce a book anymore, the converse course of action is tempting but always results in disaster.

The self-published author does not believe he needs a copy-editor, an editor, or a verificationist, much less a typesetter or a designer. Nor does he believe any aspect of the physical volume, such as dimensions, paper stock, or especially binding, needs to be “designed.”

Everyone whose self-published volumes could never have appeared under an oligopolist imprint, or any you have otherwise enjoyed, fall into the foregoing taxonomy. The publishing industry will ruin your book and steal your money, but you the author are simply not qualified to run your own show by yourself.

I indeed do know better and I am among the last of my race.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2021.06.20 14:35. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2021/06/20/moribund/

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