Friday, June 15, 2012

Apocrypha of the Novel

There's a story that James Joyce, nearly blind by the time, was dictating Finnegan's Wake to Samuel Beckett when there was a knock at the door. "Come in," Joyce said. Beckett, intently scribbling, dutifully wrote down this comment. Later, as Beckett read back what Joyce had dictated, Joyce asked where the errant "Come in" had come from. Beckett explained he must have written it down by mistake. "That's all right," Joyce allegedly said. "Leave it in." So, if you are of such mind to comb meticulously through the 800-plus pages of tiny print that make up Finnegan's Wake, you will eventually come upon a "Come in" that seems out of place.

Although in Finnegan's Wake it's rather hard to tell what's out of place.

I mention this because I was reading through the Lulu-printed copy of Tainted Souls that arrived in the mail yesterday. (A very nice job. I'll post more about this POD stuff next week.) In one chapter I came across an errant sentence that somehow survived multiple revisions of the manuscript only to live on, like the single bacterium that survives a blast of penicillin and goes on to found a whole race of superbugs.

The line is "He wiped his mouth with a napkin."

Originally the scene in which this line occurs took place in a restaurant, but I later moved it outdoors and shortened it considerably. Somehow, though, this line avoided my red pen. So now, completely out of context, a character named "Red Shoes" Mario suddenly pulls a napkin out of nowhere and wipes his mouth. The fact that he must have been eating must be inferred. Well, it could have been worse.

What about you? Did anything slip past you and into the final version or your story or book despite multiple revisions?

1 comment:

Roland said...

Intriguing mystery in a mystery. Were you by any chance having a bite to eat while you were preparing the POD version of TS?

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