06 September 2007

The Buk Stops Here

"Ohmygosh," I thought, as I looked at the final paragraph to the preface of a newly published book by Nelson Goodman, "there's a disastrous typo here!"

I simply had to point it out to him. So, somewhat self-satisfied that I had found the error, I approached Goodman and drew his attention to it. "Professor Goodman," I said, "I've been looking at your recent book, and there seems to be an unfortunate typo in the Preface." "What is it?" he said, gruffly. I opened the book and turned to the page, "A 'not' seems to be missing. Look: what it says is that the people who commented on earlier drafts are responsible for any errors that remain in the book, but you wanted to say that they are not responsible."

Goodman looked at me with a deadpan expression and said, "No, that's just what I wanted it to say."

And then I realized, I've had to have a joke explained to me.

You see, by then it had become so perfunctory for authors to add a clause absolving readers from any responsibility for perduring errors, that Goodman had cleverly seen that the point could better be made by pretending to blame them!

Now I don't think that Gabriel Lear is joking when at the end of an admirable and vigorous review she writes:

In conclusion, I want to draw attention to a problem that is not Garver's fault. The University of Chicago Press has done a shoddy job of proof reading this book. I counted nineteen obvious typos in 224 pages of main text; that's roughly one every twelve pages. Most of these were easy to read around, but one was quite confusing. [“Young men with innate hos and love of the noble (philokalon) can be influenced by virtue . . . , and I want to end this chapter by exploring that innate hos and love of the noble,” (p. 116). Hos is the masculine relative pronoun. Eventually I realized that hos should have been ĂȘthos.] A book published by a major university press ought to be produced better than this.
But book production is one thing, and proofreading is something else. I guess it's been naive of me to suppose that when the press sends an author final proofs to read, the author is supposed to do proofreading.