Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Perils of Publishing



I recently purchased two elegant books, one a lavishly illustrated biography of the genius designer Tony Duquette by Wendy Goodman and Hutton Wilkinson, the other a photographic peek into the preppy world, A Privileged Life by Susanna Salk. Whereas my heritage is squarely in the WASP-y culture of one book, I find that I am drawn to Duquette’s gloriously bohemian vision and the bold way he mixes texture and color.

But this post is not about that. Rather, I find myself compelled to write about my disappointment with some of the content of these books. As a copyeditor, I tend to be fussy about details in any circumstance, but especially in texts. So you can imagine how I squirmed in my chair while reading A Privileged Life when I saw Luke Wilson—in full Tenenbaum regalia with Gwyneth Paltrow—labeled as his brother Owen. And a few pages later, the society hostess Jayne Wrightsman was called “Jane.”

What really irked me was the chapter on WASP fashion, in which the author, who shares a good number of family images in this book to position herself as a WASP insider, made a true faux pas: she proclaimed Jack Rogers the WASP sandal of choice.

Now, had I not been a reader of Mel’s savvy blog, I might have not given this brand a second thought. But last spring Mel’s blog took me to Vivian’s blog, which complements her company, Stephen Bonanno sandals, a long-time family-owned business and originator of the authentic WASP-y sandal. As Vivian explains, Jack Rogers is a knock-off, and uses vinyl as well as leather. Lilly Pulitzer wore (and wears) Bonannos. I'll bet Jackie Kennedy Onassis wore Bonannos.


Why, oh why is Jack Rogers being touted by a supposed WASP-y insider? This book is beginning to lose its credibility with this reader.
* * *

In the Duquette book, the images are front and center, as they should be. But that doesn’t mean that editors can get sloppy with the prose. On p. 360, the last page of the last chapter, the sentence “When his ranch in Malibu burned down in 1993, . . .” appears at the beginning of two paragraphs in sequence. Methinks a copyeditor or proofreader should have brought equal care to the prose as to the images.

As a consumer, I’m disappointed that these art books, published by reputable houses (Abrams and Assouline), are lacking in editorial expertise. And I don’t want to pay $75 for typos. I’m a professor. I can read those for free.

10 comments:

ALL THE BEST said...

I just found your lovely blog. I agree with your comments and have noticed this myself lately. The cost of these books alone warrant more scrutiny.

Alison said...

Aye-Aye, Miss Cavendish.
The cover of Salk's tome appears scrumptious and promising.....until you crack the cover.
Oh, yes, some swish photos - but I agree, glaringly weightless, underesearched bits, unoriginal and sloppily inked, no delivery and no point of view.
Cleveland ARmory?? (Amory) CZ's HOUSEcoat??? (evening coat, more likely)......just wrong.

All that aside, Salk lost my regard....she slayed a sacred cow with her blatant lack of discretion and blathering on and on about what is to be kept quite........if you know what I mean.
Steven Stolman (wrote the forward) clearly should have penned this one. Cheers, Alison

mary alice said...

Good detective work Kate! I too would have been none the wiser to the Jack Roger's slip if not for our Mel. Btw, I believe somewhere on Vivian's blog she mentions, in the history of their sandal, that it was an original design for Mrs. Kennedy herself. Spread the word...

John said...

Thanks. I had wondered about the Salk book, but I haven't bought it yet, and probably won't.

Paul Pincus said...

Assouline have fooled many of us. They clearly publish too often for such a small house and have little regard for the reader!

Anyone who has watched Steven Stolman twirl / crashing his way around a dance floor in Southampton knows that the last thing he should be doing is writing a forward in a book on any kind of style!

Cheers.

Anonymous said...

If you knew anything about either of these houses you would know that Assouline is French and doesn't copy edit in this country and therefore not in the English language. They use people with broken English. And Abrams was completely downsized after 9/11. Is that an excuse for poor editing? No, but no book is perfect. And is METHINKS really a word???

miss cavendish said...

"Methinks" is an archaic English term. Its first documented (printed) use is Alfred's translation of Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy and has been seen since in works by such authors as Shakespeare, Hardy, Hawthorne, and my favorite, L. M. Montgomery.

a. said...

I worked for Abrams until shortly after 9/11 and the anon. commenter is correct. There aren\'t many people left there and I would venture to guess that a lot of the editors are there as freelance. Also, since they are owned by a French company a lot of the titles do not originate in the house but in France which are then translated here. Most of the time they aren\'t that good but are cheap to produce.

Assouline is a disaster. Fabulous ideas and concepts for books but they fall short on the written content and they rarely meet their publishing release dates because of problems with picture reproduction issues that have gone unresolved. Not sure if they even have an office in the US anymore.

mary alice said...

Gosh, some of my favorite coffee table books are from Assouline. Hmmm...

modernprep said...

I had high hopes for the Salk book but frankly it sucked.