I walked into my study this morning, past one of many bookshelves jammed floor to ceiling with ten years’ worth of research material for my MARTHA GRAHAM biography, sat down at my desk, and resumed work on proofreading the massive pdf of the final version, due back to my editor tomorrow by 5 p.m., breathing a sigh that I was on schedule, because once you are in the production phase of a book (as any author will tell you), there is no more wiggle-room.
I moved along, (not too quickly, I reminded myself), trying to take an objective point of view toward those hundreds of thousands of words, trying to imagine what The Reader would see and feel, rather than indulge in excessive scrutiny, because, at this point, you are strongly cautioned that you cannot disrupt the pagination with overlong insertions or deletions.
And so it went for a few hours, until I forced myself to take a break, which means, in my case, to stand up and drink a glass of water and pace back and forth, whereupon the question lanced through my mind — Is this the actual book? Not really, I responded; it’s a pixellated document that came to me through (in?) The Cloud, archived on a huge Random House server somewhere out there. Not really, I further replied, because it is not yet a material thing with a gorgeous jacket and deckled edge paper and over one hundred vintage photographs, exquisitely designed and set in Adobe Garamond. Not yet, I continued, because bound books won’t be available until early to mid September.
But — I interjected to myself — surely it is a book, in the sense that I have written and input every letter, every word of it, and am immersed in my final “pass,” the last time I will be enabled to respond to the copy editor and make changes here and there.
This feels absurd, I continued; like one more characteristic bout of overthinking in the end-game, the last lap of the long and winding journey, when the author’s voice takes on an internal querulousness.
Just there, in the far right corner of my writing table, beyond the edge of this screen, sits an imperturbable, printed out copy of the six hundred page “manuscript,” I suppose one could call it. But no — wait! — that isn’t the book, either, just one step closer toward the analog world of bookstores and reviewers’ copies and libraries and bedside tables…