Archive for the ‘The Book’ Category

Indexing, cont’d again

June 12, 2015

OK just one more — here’s the entry for New Orleans:New Orleans entry

Indexing, cont’d.

June 9, 2015

Indexing is zen, indexing is calm, focused, thoughtful work. I’m also a big user and appreciator of indexes in other people’s books. So I’m trying to make this one good for all my kindred spirits out there.

Here’s a screen grab of the entry on William C. C. Claiborne, governor of the Orleans Territory and one of the major figures in the book:Claiborne index entry

Indexing

June 2, 2015

I’m working on the index for Building the Land of Dreams. It’s tedious work; you just read through the book, page by page, listing all the terms, people, places, ideas, events, etc, on each page that are indexable terms, and gradually an index forms. But it’s also satisfying, in a strange geeky way. It’s a great way to think about what the book is about and to get an overview of the mass of content that fills these 400 (or so) pages.

Naturally you can’t do the index until the page proofs are done, because you have to have the actual page numbers to refer to. So it’s traditionally one of the last parts of the process. Some authors get to hire professional indexers, but I didn’t want the money for that coming out of my end, so I’m doing it myself. I’ve been looking at a lot of Indexes lately. There are a surprising number of creative choices to be made while indexing. The index to Sean Wilentz’s Rise of American Democracy (also one of my favorite books, not surprisingly) is truly a masterpiece, an indexing tour de force.

While indexing I’m also proofreading for any last minute changes and errors that have slyly survived until now. I did find one sentence that was an absolute grammatical disaster. I estimate there will be about a dozen changes in the whole book.

Book Jacket

March 29, 2015

Sweet eh?

Faber_Building the Land of Dreams

Reader reports

June 5, 2014

So as academics all know, but most regular people might not be aware, when you publish with a University press your work goes through peer review which means sending it out to at least two readers (3 in my case), people who are expert in the field and have no prior involvement with the author or the project. The readers are anonymous in theory, although it’s not too hard to figure out who they are (especially since they are selected from a list composed by the author and editor). They make comments, suggestions, and criticisms which the author is supposed to acknowledge and consider.

I found my read reports to be very helpful, on the whole. They were very complimentary, first off, which was very nice. In particular it was nice that the same things they praised about the book were the things that I intended to be good about the book: it is well written, it advances a new interpretation of Louisiana’s attachment to the American republic, it busts certain longstanding myths and exaggerations about New Orleans. As far as criticisms, they catch errors of fact, repetition (like a whole passage that was repeated twice!) and passages where I have failed to acknowledge some important scholarship. The third reader, in particular, balanced his compliments with a whole raft of, I must say, rather nitpicky criticisms and corrections. Moreover, as I worked through these nitpicky points, I was forced to conclude that my reader was in fact wrong, and I was right, on many of these points. But that raises an important issue: you don’t have to obey your readers and make the changes they ask for, only to acknowledge and consider them.

Readers #1 and #2 both zeroed in, as I’d expected they would, on the issue of Jeffersonian antislavery and my overestimation (as they see if) of the antislavery sentiments of the Jeffersonian generation. I’m afraid that my treatment of the subject in the final text probably still won’t satisfy them. But I definitely think it will be more thorough, more nuanced, and better supported and illustrated than it was in the original version. And that’s the real benefit of good criticism. You can stick to your guns and argue your side, but you do so better in the face of the criticism, and it makes everybody’s ideas better. There are many annoying things about academia, but the peer review process is a wonderful thing when it works right, and it is going to make my book a lot better.