Thursday, February 01, 2007

Thurber, Whatshername and My Annual Disappearing Act

After several days in which I barely touched Wikipedia, I did a little work on some L'Engle-related articles on Tuesday, and then spent much of tonight messing around with James Thurber‎. Someone had added tidbits to the article about 1) Thurber's supposedly final drawing, which appeared on the cover of Time in 1951, and 2) a Thurber story, "You Could Look It Up", and the question of whether it inspired one of baseball impresario Bill Veeck's most famous publicity stunts. In researching these, I read a highly entertaining excerpt from Veeck's autobiography, and an equally entertaining article from that 1951 issue of Time. My favorite sentence from the latter was this:

For some time now, a psychiatrist has been writing Thurber, offering to cure him of his drawing.

Other points of interest in the Time article:

1. It contained a lengthy discussion of an upcoming full-length animated feature from UPA, to be called Men, Women and Dogs. It was going to be a faithful adaptation of some of Thurber's works, and include a couple of humorous lectures from Thurber itself. It didn't happen, unfortunately, but UPA (whose claims to fame were Mister Magoo and Gerald McBoing Boing) did make a cartoon of Thurber's fable "The Unicorn in the Garden." In finding this out, I discovered that the UPA article had the title of that cartoon wrong, and that the article about the short story was a stub, and didn't even mention that it was one of Thurber's Fables for Our Time. I ended up adding publication data to the story article, as well as info on adaptations to film, stage, television, light opera, and audio cassette.

2. Thurber was a great believer in revising and polishing, something I've known about him since the 1977 Clarion workshop. One detail in the article makes this concrete:

Before his sight began to go, Thurber could punch a typewriter at a brisk pace. Never having learned the touch system, however, he is now forced to scrawl with soft pencils on sheets of bright yellow paper, getting about 20 words to a sheet, words which he cannot see, although he peers at them through a thick goggle. After he has finished the first draft of a piece, it is read back to him, and he makes oral revisions sentence by sentence. Thurber always was a relentless reviser (he rewrote The White Deer 25 times) so that his composition has become slow and painful. Nevertheless, in the past ten years he has written and published more than he did in the previous ten.

I guess that makes me feel a bit better about how many drafts Heirs of Mâvarin has gone through. I couldn't begin to tell you how many that is, though. I expect it's rather more than 25 drafts for parts of Chapter One, but well under 25 for the chapters at the end. This is because it took me years and years of rewriting to finally budge the narrative past page 70 or so.

Speaking of writing troubles, I have not made a decision about our otherworld princess. So far I have one vote each for the following:
  1. Cathma with a nickname Masha, given by her real father
  2. Princess Lora
  3. Princess Carma and Prince Cathli
  4. a new suggestion: Cari and Catha, or possibly Carmi and Cathla.
Ack! At some point I'll have to decide this myself, but you're all welcome to continue confusing me. In the end, if all goes well, the vote that will count the most will come from my editor.

I probably won't see many sunsets for a while.

I'm gearing up for the time of year when I say to John, in essence, "Bye, John! See you in March!" I just lost my temporary assistant who was helping me do year-end catch-up stuff. It's not his fault; the job was huge, and they didn't budget enough time for it. Now he's been pulled off to work on other urgent stuff, and I'm looking at nights and weekends at the office, entering December data and troubleshooting problems. Guess I'd better bring in some more Beatles to sing along with late at night! I also need to go to bed, and hope I can concentrate at work tomorrow.



Becky said...

Whew... Bloglines told me I had 58 entries of yours to read. Scary as that was, it only took 2 days. Many of them turned out to be multiple edits of the same entries. lol Denville?!? Have we ever talked about the fact that John and I used to live there (just before here)??? Like the new camera! It looks a lot like mine. I'm scared to do the blogger version change-over after reading about all the problems you ran into. I had other stuff to comment on, but my brain has mushified again. I need to play Brain Age for a few more days and see if I can improve my score. My brain is "80" years old right now. Not good.

Roxanne said...

Thanks for writing this.