So. I've been browsing through my book reviews, and still debating whether it's wise to write and review, and I don't want to chuck the writing but I enjoy reviewing, and, oh, crap. What to do, what to do, what to do? While browsing I keep noticing the fatal flaw that dogs nearly all of these books that are good books but fall short of great, and that's the absence of the editor. And by that I mean that these books might have been vetted by a marketing crew, a production crew, and possibly a copyeditor (although even that is becoming rare), but NOT AN EDITOR. Or at least undergoing what I consider a rigorous editorial review.
The classic role of an editor is to browbeat, chastise, sternly lecture, and/or praise a writer into producing the best possible book with the material they have. Being something of a Hemingway and Fitzgerald fanatic, I often reread the letters between them and their editor, Max Perkins, and I think, wow, that is just not happening today. As New York publishing continues to flounder, the traditional editorial system is going by the wayside. You can see it in the writing. There is a lack of focus, a fuzziness. A good editor sees the promise of a whole book and does everything they can to push the author to her or his best writing self. It's having a sense of a book's integrity that is unique to that book.
I'm even talking about schlock. There is a case to be made for decent schlock. I've spent many rainy afternoons curled up on the couch reading decent schlock. It has a place on my bookshelf and rainy afternoons are tailor made for the potboiler. But even a decently written potboiler needs a second eye. Someone who says, wow, the schlock in Chapter 5 is marvelous. But Chapter 8 is largely unadulterated crap so rewrite or remove.
It's a jungle out there. Competition for people's time is fierce. It seems to me that instead of firing the editors, we should be hiring MORE of them. There are so many books that I've read in the last three years that I believe could have been great if handled by an editor with a fearless pen.