Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Notes: "The Forest for the Trees", by Betsy Lerner

While I was reading "The Forest for the Trees", by Betsy Lerner, I tried to explain what it was about to my husband.

"It's by an editor," I said, "and it's about editing."

"Oh," he said, "so it's a how-to book."

"No . . ." I said, hemming and hawing. "It's sort of like a memoir? But that's not quite either . . ."

The heart of the book
What this book is is a series of sharp, insightful vignettes from the life of a very successful editor.

I loved it.

I loved her love of books, and I loved how intelligently she illuminated the work she did to make those lovely books even better.

I felt like I learned so much reading this book

Here are a few of my favorite quotations from "The Forest for the Trees":

“The writer’s psychology is by its very nature one of extreme duality. The writer labors in isolation, yet all that intensive, lonely work is in the service of communicating, is an attempt to reach another person.” –  pages 5-6

“Most writers have very little choice in what they write about. Think of any writer’s body of work, and you will see the thematic pattern incorporating voice, structure, and intent. What is in evidence over and over is a certain set of obsessions, a certain vocabulary, a way of approaching the page. The person who can’t focus is not without his own obsessions, vocabulary, and approach. However, either he can’t find his form or he can’t apply the necessary discipline that ultimately separates the published from the unpublished.” – pages 18-19.

“As with sex, some people have extremely low writing drives, while others become irritable and agitated if they can’t express themselves everyday.” – page 27.

“Absorbing [my father’s] worldview, I came to believe that people were neither lucky nor unlucky. Life was more like a game of odds in which you could increase your chances of winning simply by doing more than the next guy. It wasn’t about being in the right place at the right time but about being in a lot of places at a lot of times, showing up even when the odds seemed lousy. How this applies to writers is somewhat obvious, but I’ll belabor the point: submitting your work fifty times or revising it as many times as you have to may be what separates the sung from the unsung.” 

If you love books, and if you have any interest in the making of them, this is one to pick up.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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Sherry said...

Thanks for the suggestion. I think I'll have to add this to the list, too. "The world of editing."

Jessica Snell said...

Sherry, yes! I hadn't thought of it that way, but this one is a "weird job" book, too! :)