The Editor’s Glasses

A persistent image:

Buried beneath a pile of books, he has an editor’s Oxford Dictionary as his armrest. And somewhere in the mess lies a pair of glasses that is redundant to him at the moment. For in my imagination, an editor of books possesses two pairs of glasses, one for reading the book he edits and the other for billboards and streams of forgettable words.

He adjusts his editor’s glasses carefully on the bridge of his nose, and gets down to the task of refashioning the book with a lot of love and care. Like pixies in fairytales, who climb out of their hiding places and pick up their favourite shoes, and then chip away the stiches only to sew back the shoes with care and precision.

And then I learned:

An editor is so much more. A week into the editing course has given me a new perspective. An editor does not possess just two pairs of glasses, rather, he has multiple pairs of glasses. His universe isn’t divided into the book and the beyond, rather, there is the book and maze-like universe of the book—the bookverse!

In fact, the moment an editor picks up a book, he becomes in certain senses, the vehicle of the book. He carries it from the writer to the publisher. Later he takes it to the designer, the printer and the distributor. And finally he brings it to the last and most important member of the bookverse—the reader.

Though it all begins with a reader:

The editor himself is the first reader. But once he has read the book he must remove the reader’s glasses and wear the editor’s glasses. Seeing past those persuasive words, the editor must learn to look at the frayed edges. He must smoothen out the text and make it readable. And not just for the reader but also for the printer. The proof marks that lie strewn in an editor’s copy make up an invisible map for the printer.

After the printer comes the designer. The editor briefs the designer and helps him understand the book. He then becomes its advocate and voice. Next, the innumerable sales representatives that stand in the spiraling staircase of distribution are persuaded and taken into the fold. And this journey isn’t easy or even. The road ahead is often foggy!

Foggy glasses:

Dealing in copyrights is one foggy business. An editor in a publishing house is responsible to the author as well as the publisher. And when it comes to the matters of copyrights, he must tread the path with care. Often the geniality of both the author and the publisher comes under duress when they discuss the copyright of a book. It is the editor’s task to facilitate the transaction. If he can accommodate the wishes of the author and convince him to invest his copyright in the house, then he has brooked the devil. And this is just one of the hurdles.

An editor has to constantly clear the road ahead, remove the hurdles, and sensitively engage with the members of the bookverse. He clears the mist on the road and also the thin film on his glasses.

Yet he is a pixie:

The journey of the editor in the bookverse is as quiet as footsteps of a pixie. He loves the book and breathes a new life into it, but when the time comes he also bids it a quiet goodbye. He claims no recognition for his effort. The joy of bringing to life a great book is his greatest and only gift. And fuelled by this sense of fulfillment he begins afresh with a new book and with new pair of glasses!


Shailza Rai


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