What is editing?

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When this is the way top-selling writers behave, is it any wonder the industry is in trouble?

Here’s a snip from Anne Rice’s venomous retort to the criticism of her novel Blood Canticle on Amazon.com:
“’I have no intention of allowing any editor ever to distort, cut or otherwise mutilate sentences that I have edited and re-edited, and organized and polished myself,’ she wrote. ‘I fought a great battle to achieve a status where I did not have to put up with editors making demands on me.’”

Is that what editing is? “Cutting, distorting, or mutilating” sentences?

“An executive at a rival publishing house, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said publishers often took a hands-off editorial approach with stars like Ms. Rice and Stephen King, another prolific, best-selling author, particularly as their careers matured. ‘Ultimately it’s the author’s book,’ the executive said. ‘With an author of a certain stature, they’re the artist; we’re the amanuensis [transcriptionists].’”

This view of professional editing is so arrogant and removed from the real intent of editing, I can hardly stand it. I’m reminded of a quote by Khalil Gibran, “God keep me from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh, and the greatness which does not bow before children.” How can an experienced writer still hold to this view that editing is hacking and “mutilating?” Editing could have prevented much of the rancor aimed at Rice’s novel. But obviously the experienced editor in charge of such an unenviable task, wisely chose to keep his hands off. Yet any editor worth his salt and familiar with Rice’s novels would have seen fit to lend some much-needed objectivity to this book. Maybe we should change the title of editors who actually work on books to “clarifiers” or “refiners,” and the ones who simply rubber stamp books in an attempt to make their next Lexus payment the “villains of literature” that they are. . .

But then, maybe I’m just reacting.

New York Times article: “The People Have Spoken, and Rice Takes Offense”

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