March 10th, 2012

angel_agonistes

God helpe the man so wrapt in Errours endlesse traine!

Let it be here recorded that there is no cornucopia, widow's cruse, or jötunn drinking horn, half as inexhaustible as a typescript - at least in the matter of errors. As fast as you swat one down, up pop half a dozen others. The occasion in this instance is Reading History in Children's Books, but it is a universal plight and Spenser, as so often, anticipates me:

She poured forth out of her hellish sinke
Her fruitfull cursed spawne of serpents small,
Deformed monsters, fowle, and blacke as inke,
Which swarming all about his legs did crall...

I'm sure the writers on my friends list will recognize that experience. Some errors will of course get through our guard and make it into the finished book, to scarify our corneas every time we see them thereafter. It's inevitable. I am immensely fond of Four British Fantasists, and it doesn't have many typos, but those I do see (including two mistakes in Welsh)* are most painful to behold.

It's difficult to steer a steady course between the Scylla of Publication and the Charybdis of Perfectionism. My own method is to tell myself that "Atropos too is a weaver" (a phrase I would have on my tombstone if I weren't going to be scattered in Otterbourne Wood), and that without her kindly dispatch the shelves of all the libraries and bookshops in the world would lie desolate. That is one way of dealing with it. Another is to reflect that we need to have to proofs back by 22nd March.

* Preiddu Annwn for Preiddeu Annwn, and Mari Llwyd for Mari Lwyd.