Elmore Leonard said: I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances ''full of rape and adverbs.''

Thursday, 24 July 2008

I THINK I'M IN LOVE... (not really)


Spot the difference:

"I can't think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rosé and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for a nosh."

and

"I can't think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rosé and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for nosh."

Yes, that's right. Well spotted. There's an indefinite article missing in the last sentence of the second passage.

This indefinite article was removed from restaurant critic Giles Coren's review by a foolhardy sub. The result is an epic 1,000+ word rant emailed to the guilty parties.

Starting with a benign 'Chaps,' (I love it), Coren continues, I am mightily pissed off...

I don't really like people tinkering with my copy for the sake of tinkering. I do not enjoy the suggestion that you have a better ear or eye for how I want my words to read than I do...

It was the final sentence. Final sentences are very, very important. A piece builds to them, they are the little jingle that the reader takes with him into the weekend....

There is no length issue. This is someone thinking "I'll just remove this indefinite article because Coren is an illiterate cunt and i know best".

Well, you fucking don't.

Of course, Coren goes into great detail at this point to explain exactly why this was "shit, shit sub-editing." It really is too good not to share in its full, virulent glory.
1) 'Nosh', as I'm sure you fluent Yiddish speakers know, is a noun formed from a bastardisation of the German 'naschen'. It is a verb, and can be construed into two distinct nouns. One, 'nosh', means simply 'food'. You have decided that this is what i meant and removed the 'a'. I am insulted enough that you think you have a better ear for English than me. But a better ear for Yiddish? I doubt it. Because the other noun, 'nosh' means "a session of eating" - in this sense you might think of its dual valency as being similar to that of 'scoff'. you can go for a scoff. or you can buy some scoff. the sentence you left me with is shit, and is not what i meant. Why would you change a sentnece aso that it meant something i didn't mean? I don't know, but you risk doing it every time you change something. And the way you avoid this kind of fuck up is by not changing a word of my copy without asking me, okay? it's easy. Not. A. Word. Ever.

2) I will now explain why your error is even more shit than it looks. You see, i was making a joke. I do that sometimes. I have set up the street as "sexually-charged". I have described the shenanigans across the road at G.A.Y.. I have used the word 'gaily' as a gentle nudge. And "looking for a nosh" has a secondary meaning of looking for a blowjob. Not specifically gay, for this is soho, and there are plenty of girls there who take money for noshing boys. "looking for nosh" does not have that ambiguity. the joke is gone. I only wrote that sodding paragraph to make that joke. And you've fucking stripped it out like a pissed Irish plasterer restoring a renaissance fresco and thinking jesus looks shit with a bear so plastering over it. You might as well have removed the whole paragraph. I mean, fucking christ, don't you read the copy?

3) And worst of all. Dumbest, deafest, shittest of all, you have removed the unstressed 'a' so that the stress that should have fallen on "nosh" is lost, and my piece ends on an unstressed syllable. When you're winding up a piece of prose, metre is crucial. Can't you hear? Can't you hear that it is wrong? It's not fucking rocket science. It's fucking pre-GCSE scansion. I have written 350 restaurant reviews for The Times and i have never ended on an unstressed syllable. Fuck. fuck, fuck, fuck.

I absolutely love point 2, Coren going into lengthy detail to explain his mightily unamusing and laboured 'joke.' This conceit is only equalled by his drawing parallels to his restaurant review and a renaissance fresco. Bless.

Lest we think Coren is losing his grip on reality, his continues on an ameliorative note:

I am sorry if this looks petty... but i care deeply about my work and i hate to have it fucked up by shit subbing... I woke up at three in the morning on sunday and fucking lay there, furious, for two hours. weird, maybe. but that's how it is.

Now this kind of wins me over. And, in case you think it can't get any better than 'fuck fuck fuck,' Coren concludes with - wait for it -
Right,
Sorry to go on. Anger, real steaming fucking anger can make a man verbose.
All the best
Giles

I am charmed.

This is not the first time Coren has let loose on a sub. In 2002, the bastardization of the sentence 'The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog' led to a less epically proportioned (though no less impassioned) email, which concluded
never ask me to write something for you. and don't pay me. i'd rather take £400 quid for assassinating a crack whore's only child in a revenge killing for a busted drug deal - my integrity would be less compromised.

I confess, I didn't know Coren from Jack until this afternoon, and I don't really want to know any more. There is something hugely amusing about a curmudgeonly, self-important, articulate man with an ax to grind. Romance is crying out for a Giles Coren! (any suggestions?)

Also, writers, writers of any kind, does the editing process ever reduce you to Coren-like levels of spittle-flying, eye-bulging, vein-popping anger?

29 comments:

Sherry Thomas said...

ROTFLMFAO!

I actually especially liked this part:

I have written 350 restaurant reviews for The Times and i have never ended on an unstressed syllable.

Now that impresses the living daylight out of me. English is not my mother tongue. When I write, I don't hear. I judge by "taste," if that makes any sense. Or maybe I do have a feel for the rhythm of it, but I can't articulate what is the rhythm I'm after and I certainly never think of my prose in meter feet. So a man who knows that he always ends his writing on a stressed syllable is to me as awesomely, fuckably smart as one who derives equations describing the universe in 11 dimensions.

I was thinking of doing a curmudgeonly hero after watching House, M.D., with the delectable Hugh Laurie. But I didn't want my hero to also be a doctor. A cranky, brilliant wordsmith would be great.

Except I don't know whether I have the command of language to succeed with such a character. Oh, well, I won't know until I try!

RfP said...

I have a couple of male friends (and one female, actually the best looking of the bunch) who are word curmudgeons. I suppose I could set up a blind date... if you're sure you want to spend an evening with someone who goes into pages-long rants over the cab driver's English, the waiter's inanity, and the cinema ticket girl not getting his obscure pun.

Meriam said...

Sherry, I liked that bit too, precisely because it impressed the hell out of me. Fuckably smart, indeed :-)

You like House? I love House!

Your cranky, curmudgeonly hero could be a critic! Or a scientist, or a lawyer (sorry, not so good with the ideas). I do hope you go ahead and try. Romance is crying out for a grumpy, brilliant, withering hero.

rfp, my interest in articulate, curmudgeonly (old) men is a little unhealthy and age inappropriate. I'm trying to steer my tastes towards young, uncomplicated beefcakes. Know any of those?

RfP said...

It's never age-inappropriate to have a crush on a big brain! And you do realize being beefy takes a lot of maintenance, right?

Romance is crying out for a grumpy, brilliant, withering hero.

But not one who's tamed or socialized by the heroine! Please, please, please don't do that to him. (Obviously I share Meriam's fondness for grumps.)

Jill D. said...

Meriam, I love your posts. I never know what to expect! They are few and far between, but keep them coming.

Jill D. said...

Also, I just want to say that Corin is a fascinating man. Wow! I wonder if he has that kind of attention for detail in other aspects of his life besides grammar.

Meriam said...

But not one who's tamed or socialized by the heroine! Please, please, please don't do that to him. (Obviously I share Meriam's fondness for grumps.)

Yes. The thing with House is, you know he's never going to be 'tamed,' which is great but at the same time, it means he will never be happy. For the romance reader in me, that is very hard to swallow. Based on four seasons of obsessive viewing, I know intellectually that him hooking up with Cuddy would lead to disaster and unhappiness and dysfunction, despite all that sizzling chemistry they share- and yet!

Can someone as critical and intellectual and brilliant (and troubled; let's not forget his bum leg and his drug addiction) ever be truly happy? House's character is loosely based on Sherlock Holmes, another moody genius, misogynist and addict.

Jill - thanks.

I wonder if he has that kind of attention for detail in other aspects of his life besides grammar.

Heh. Dirty! (warning: shameless Gilmore Girls video.)

RfP said...

Can someone as critical and intellectual and brilliant (and troubled; let's not forget his bum leg and his drug addiction) ever be truly happy?

I'd say yes, of course... until you threw in the "troubled". That's pretty hard to answer in a broad-brush way. But I see no conflict between critical, etc, and happy. Though perhaps not in the mode of Rainbows and puppies and sunshine, oh my!, if that's what's required for "true" happiness.

Sherry Thomas said...

Can someone as critical and intellectual and brilliant (and troubled; let's not forget his bum leg and his drug addiction) ever be truly happy? House's character is loosely based on Sherlock Holmes, another moody genius, misogynist and addict.

Someone married Holmes off, and rather believably too. Have you read Laurie King's Mary Russell books?

House, as he is, cannot be credibly mated. But he had been once. I remember rewatching "Three Stories" and being shocked at his saying "I love you."

"Taming" such a man is out of question. I pity any women deluded enough to try. But it is possible for such a man to become wiser--intelligence does not imply wisdom, sometimes more piercingly intelligent a man, the more stupid he is in other aspects of his life.

One thing that keeps us riveted by House is his heartbreaking loneliness, when the day is done and he is home by himself. If I were to attempt such a character, his character arc would consist largely of just that, from completely alone to not as alone.

RfP said...

Someone married Holmes off, and rather believably too. Have you read Laurie King's Mary Russell books?

I've read one. It seemed like an unorthodox solution for an unorthodox character. But I think the one I read was quite late in the series, so I saw only a little of their relationship.

BTW, Meriam, your Snapshots pop-ups have "Sponsored links" to:
Classic porn
Becca
Adverbs (which, when clicked, offered me an online degree)
Sermons
Sex-dolls
McKenna

My, my. What *have* you been saying on here?

Meriam said...

Damnit, those snapshots work?!

For some reason, they don't pop up on my computer, so I thought the experiment had failed. Also, I decided they were quite annoying. I'll have to look into switching it off.

My, my. What *have* you been saying on here?

You should see my 'keyword hits;" it's extremely disturbing.

Have you read Laurie King's Mary Russell books?

I've heard of this series, and it has been recommended to me in the past. I'll have to take a look... (btw, I'm reading The Valley of Fear at the moment. What an pompous **@!& Holmes is!)

If I were to attempt such a character, his character arc would consist largely of just that, from completely alone to not as alone.

Yes, that's kind of what I want for House, too. But maybe I'm being optimisitic. He is a character written mostly by a bunch of men, after all. :-(

Gosh, Sherry, I hope you go ahead with this guy. Who would you have as his heroine? Someone equally brilliant and thorny, a young ingenue...?

(That is also my way of asking if you're a House shipper, and if so, which character strikes you as the most compatible for him. If any.)

RfP said...

We aren't the only ones attracted to difficult people.

Mary Jo Putney just posted on Word Wenches: "Having a deep and possibly regrettable interest in complicated people has led my stories into some interesting psychological byways. ..."

The rest of the post is about fireman/solider type heroes, but that line fit nicely.

Tumperkin said...

"This conceit is only equalled by his drawing parallels to his restaurant review and a renaissance fresco."

Quite.

Am I the only one then who finds his diatribe utterly charmless? It would appear so.

I wonder how he got on TV? *coughfamousfathercough*

Tumperkin said...

Guess who can't use html tags.

Tumperkin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RfP said...

utterly charmless

I don't find it alluring as Meriam does, but I recognize it. As I said above, I have friends who rant like this and sometimes it ruins an evening--but sometimes it's witty and wonderful.

RfP said...

... though I should say: I do sometimes find rants alluring. I've fallen for crankypants myself, even if this one doesn't shiver me timbers.

The House thing, though, I really don't get :)

Sherry Thomas said...

Gosh, Sherry, I hope you go ahead with this guy. Who would you have as his heroine? Someone equally brilliant and thorny, a young ingenue...?

I think a heroine equally brilliant, but whose thorns has been somewhat stripped by life. The thing about these curmudgeonly geniuses is that they've never had it really abysmally rough, otherwise they wouldn't be so put out by the lack of an indefinite article.

So if it were up to me, the heroine would be someone who used to be more or less like our curmudgeonly hero, but has become very subdued.

So in that case, the Curmudgeonly Hero could learn some wisdom and (just a tiny bit of) humility from her, and she could perhaps get some of her former fire back from him.

(That is also my way of asking if you're a House shipper, and if so, which character strikes you as the most compatible for him. If any.)

Not sure if I'm a shipper, but I don't see him with either Cameron or Cuddy. Stacy is the best thing that ever happened to him, alas.

Sherry Thomas said...

And this is appropos of nothing but I am and have been infatuated with the name of your blog for a while.

Today I was tempted to rename my blog "Boinks and Metaphors."

:-D

Sherry Thomas said...

Gah. Apropos. Sorry

Meriam said...

Am I the only one then who finds his diatribe utterly charmless? It would appear so.

Weeeell, I see where you're coming from, because Coren strikes me as someone I might not want to know in 'real life'. When I read his email, I knew nothing else about him, and certain things won me over - the notion of him tossing and turning in bed because of that one missing word. He wasn't just being a c*nt, he was being a c*nt because he cared, damnit. In a completely over the top and idiotic way, but - you know - it's his work and someone messed it up.

I wonder how he got on TV? *coughfamousfathercough*

He was mentioned in The Guardian again, today:
----
Teen drama queen
Giles Coren owes his reputation for spectacular anger to recent email tantrums, but it seems some journalists were privileged to spot him as a rising star of petulance more than 20 years ago. One remembers taking part in a Fleet Street cricket match where Punch were playing and, as the son of Alan Coren, the 13-year-old Giles was allowed to bowl. When he discovered he wouldn't get a second spell, the older team-mate recalls, he "burst into floods of tears and had to be consoled on Alan's knee". Happily the internet now provides a more dignified outlet for the F-Word and Supersizers star's feelings.
----
In fact, he's been a top hit on the website, something they are properly appreciative of.

So... this is my way of saying, I like the idea of this foul mouthed, erudite, grumpy, brilliant hater of subeds, but I don't want to know any more about him, because it totally ruins my mental image and renders him a bit of a prick.

Also, like rfp, I do find rants alluring.

Meriam said...

The House thing, though, I really don't get :)

That's because you haven't seen enough House. Watch them, watch them all!!!! And then tell me you don't get it!

Ahem.

Sherry, so wise.

The problem with TV is, they have to have these character archetypes - the brilliant, tragic young doctor (innocence to his experience) or the sexy administrator (see the sparks fly!) and that was the interesting thing about Stacy - she was just this sharply intelligent, attractive woman who got him and he fell in love with her.

Having said that, I'm a shameless House/ Cuddy shipper because every time I see them in a scene together, I just want them to rip each other's clothes off. Very shallow. They are doomed, though. DOOMED.

Today I was tempted to rename my blog "Boinks and Metaphors."

Ha! I've been thinking recently that it's a little inappropriate and off-putting. I'm so glad someone likes it. It really tickled me, and expressed my love of the genre in a ever-so-slightly irreverent manner.

I do prattle on.

Tumperkin said...

Well, yes, ranting can be good. In fact I'm a bit of a Ranty McRant myself at times.

But over an 'a'?

And he's such a little fucking media twerp, really - have you never seen him on TV?

But curmudgeonly heroes I love (though they must be properly curmudgeonly and not merely ill-tempered). In fact, that was one of the things I loved about The Raven Prince - the grumpy hero(though I seem to remember you were not hugely fond of TRP?).

Meriam said...

...one of the things I loved about The Raven Prince - the grumpy hero(though I seem to remember you were not hugely fond of TRP?).

Sadly, no. On paper, it was precisely the kind of book I'd like to read. The execution... did not work for me. I guess I should try Hoyt again, but she made me so mad with her anachronistic style I think I'll give her another year or two. For my rage to properly subside :-)

I'm reading a book I didn't realise I had - Kleypas's Scandal in Spring (last of the wallflower trilogy). I've had my doubts about Kleypas in the past but this last one (and The Devil in Winter) won me over. I'm a sucker for books that make me laugh, and there was one scene in SiS that had me laughing out.

Did you enjoy Suddenly You? I've got a soft spot for that one.

Tumperkin said...

I did. I really did. But it was a 'B' good. There are some very good authors that never really get beyond the 'B' for me. Kleypas is one. Mary Jo Putney is another. I've only read one Jo Beverley but I think she might be another. It's something to do with reader-writer chemistry I think.

For example, I think I'd have to say that Beverley's writing is better than some authors whose books I'd give 'A's to. But there's something missing for me. Difficult to put my finger on but I'm going to say - it's that something that makes it seem real. I think that's the ingredient that takes me from a 'B' to an 'A' for me.

You do realise I'm going to have to blog about this?

I love you for not having word verification.

Meriam said...

There are some very good authors that never really get beyond the 'B' for me. Kleypas is one. Mary Jo Putney is another. I've only read one Jo Beverley but I think she might be another.

Yes! I haven't read any Putney (shock!) but I feel exactly the same way about Beverley and Kleypas. I think The Devil in Winter and Scandal in Spring came very close to A, but were possibly just very good B+ and the reason, as you said, must be this elusive chemistry. (e.g. I would happily give Anne Stuart As, but I don't think she's a better writer than Kleypas/ Beverley)

Look forward to your post.

Word verification - I posted tonight at Teach Me Tonight and it took three goes before I got the verification correct. Once more and I would have given up. Then I went to your blog and found your post on the topic. Very eery...

Tumperkin said...

What? NO posts in August at all?

Meriam said...

I know!

Many 'real life' reasons for it, unfortunately, but that's no excuse for such poor showing.

I do have a post in the works, but it's pretty lame.

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