Saturday, 3 December 2016

Jeff Seiler: Minding Minds

Cerebus Vol 10: Minds (1996)
by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(Or: Tending to the proofreading of MINDS for the next remastered volume.)

Having read in one of Sean Michael Robinson’s posts about doing the remastering of Cerebus, Volume I, that he thought that the next book in the queue would be MINDS, I ordered a copy of it from Menachem Luchins, who owns Escape Pod Comics in Huntington, NY. I received it on Tuesday of this past week and set to work on proofreading it on Wednesday night.

This was the easiest book to proof so far, primarily because it’s short (279 pages, including Dave’s introduction) and because, by my count, 62 pages contain no dialogue whatsoever and many more pages contain (literally) just one word. Of course, this makes sense because much of the story is set in the vacuum of outer space. Now, having said that, there are a lot of pages with very dense text. Nevertheless, I powered through the book in one night (7 hours, 30 minutes), making my usual handwritten notes about the various things that needed correcting, IMHO.

The good news was that, this being volume 10, the dreaded P’s that look like D’s (the primary issue I had to deal with in proofreading Cerebus, Volume I) were practically nonexistent. Only 14 examples of that, that I could find, plus a few other letters that need touching up.

I should mention that, since Dave had informed me earlier that he does his writing based on proper English (as in, Great Britain) usage, I decided that I would purchase a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary. I called around, here in Minneapolis, and found a bookstore in Dinkytown (yeah, for whatever reason, that’s what they call the neighborhood near and around the University of Minnesota) that had a copy of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Now, anyone familiar with the OED will not be surprised that the Shorter OED consists of two volumes, comprised of over 3,700 pages. I certainly was not going to purchase the 15 or 20 volumes that comprise the unabridged OED. But, I got a steal--leatherbound, in a slipcase, for just $75.

So, armed with my new weapon and able, for the first time, to be absolutely sure when correcting Dave’s misspellings or usage, I cranked out the whole book Wednesday night. I still have to go back and highlight all of the corrections in the book, so that I can send both the notes and the highlighted book to Sean, so that he can make the corrections. The process that Dave, Sean, and I have evolved to is that I send a copy of the written notes and the highlighted book to Sean, while sending the original handwritten notes to Dave, for him to include in the Cerebus Archive. And, I keep a copy of the notes for myself.

The vast majority of the corrections for MINDS are of punctuation, and the vast majority of those are double quotation marks instead of single quotation marks. And then, commas where there aren’t any; an occasional ellipsis where there isn’t one; and, rarely, a period where there isn’t one.

More good news: I found only two outright typographical errors. The first one is on page 155, where it should be UTENSILS, not UNTENSILS. The other one comes about 30 pages later and I will leave it up to your eagle eyes to find that one.

There are several cases of Dave inserting hyphens into compound words when the OED says that there should not be hyphens. For example, on page 205, OFFSPRING is one word, per the OED, with no hyphen.

One particular example of a hyphen out of place, but which gave me difficulty, was the use of LIFE-MATES, on page 158. I could not find the word in either the OED or my American Heritage Dictionary, which lends credence to the idea of it being two words, with no hyphen.

There was a couple of instances where Dave used a word I had never heard of before and for which the OED came in very handy. The oddest one was on page 205: ICONOLATRY. This comes during the sequence wherein Dave is talking to the pouty Cerebus, who is floating through space in a variety of different chairs (drawn very creatively by Gerhard). Dave asks Cerebus, “I don’t suppose you’re interested in hearing about how the Shaman-King’s mistake was in seeking the ideal Aardvarkian ‘form’ with no regard for the ideal ‘nature’? A mistake grounded in his blind belief in iconolatry…?”

Well, having only a vague idea of what the word might mean, by breaking down its parts--icon + olatry--I looked it up in the OED. “The worship of religious images or icons.” This struck a chord with me and I thought at length about Dave’s use of the word here. Finally, I wrote this note: “The OED defines ICONOLATRY as: The worship of religious images or icons. Thus, the phrase on this page, ‘belief in iconolatry’ is redundant (I think). A better wording would be ‘practice of iconolatry’, or just take out ‘belief in’ and make it ‘blind iconolatry’.”

And, in closing, I would add that this example really illustrates the difference between reading MINDS and minding MINDS. Having read this book at least a couple of times in the serialized version, and at least once or twice in the phonebook, I never stumbled over that word before. But proofreading requires a different mindset: You look at each word, one by one, and then at the entire word balloon as a whole and decide if it works or not. Obviously, typographical errors stick out like sore thumbs (when you’re proofing), but the more subtle things take a great degree of concentration. It requires a combination of looking at the big picture while, at the same time, focusing on each element, right down to the missing or misused punctuation marks. That’s what really eats up the time.

And, it’s why I get paid the big bucks. Like the 12-pointer my sister got on the first day of rifle season, down on our family farm.

Okay, it’s on to the highlighting now, for me. Look for the remastered MINDS in your LCS soon (I hope). And, I hope that these updates are interesting to some of you, especially those of you whose Kickstarter donations help fund the entire remastering project. We’ll plant that flag at the summit one of these days, God willing.


Mike Battaglia said...

Jeff -

I think you need the hyphen on "life-mates" because of 'life' being a modifier for 'mate'. Otherwise 'mates' runs the risk of becoming a verb, changing the meaning to "life procreates". Amirite?

Mike Battaglia said...

Hmmmm... upon further thought I can see why you struggled with this. I would need to see the context. I guess if there's any ambiguity you would probably hyphenate it. Hyphenation isn't required, here, it's just a matter of rhythm and context. For instance I don't think anyone would hyphenate "life partner". I don't think it would be wrong to hyphenate "life partner", just not necessary.

Mike Battaglia said...

Waaaait a second...

No hyphen. No space. One word.

Jeff Seiler said...

Mike--Thank you for dragging this out for me a little bit longer! ;) I just went back to my newly acquired OED *and* my American Heritage Dictionary and took a closer look. It seems that the experts (or, "experts") also have a lot of trouble with the proper form when combining the word "life" with other words. There are multiple examples of "life" being combined with other words as one word, with "life" either at the beginning or the end. There are also multiple examples of "life" being followed by a hyphen to join it to another word. And, there are multiple examples of "life" being joined to another word with a space between the two words. In the OED, I found an entry in the fine print for "life"--"life partner". Obviously, it's a synonym for "life mate(s)". Ergo, I'm sticking with "life mates" being two words, no hyphen. Especially because Dave expressed a preference for English (British) usage.

Thanks for the input, Michael. :)

Jeff Seiler said...

Hallelujah! I finished MINDS for good (or, for now) at around 4 p.m. CDT today. Seven and one-half hours making proofreading notes (on Thursday night), followed by three and one-half hours of highlighting the corrections in the book (today). The latter is to make it easier for Sean to find the necessary corrections.

Of course, the phrase "necessary corrections" is relative. It ultimately comes down to Sean agreeing or disagreeing with me and, naturally, Dave's final say. My work is the first step (well, after the original publication), but I'm just one small cog in the machine.

I consider myself honored that Dave trusts my finely focused eyes. That trust, to me, is the highest honor that he could bestow on me. Even better than my treasured "Cerebus Super-Fan" plaque.

Onwards and upwards, Dave. To the summit!

Mike Battaglia said...

Jeff Seiler said... "Mike--Thank you for dragging this out for me a little bit longer!"

Ha! Sorry, brother.
Hyphens, like commas, can be a real b***h, eh? :)

And thank YOU. I'm looking forward to the remastered MINDS being available for the world's viewing pleasure. Looking forward to it big-time. Big time? Bigtime... Arrrhg!

Jeff Seiler said...

Mike--LOL!!! For the record, I enjoyed proofing this book immensely. Reading it very, very closely brought things out that I had never before appreciated. Well, here's the note to Dave that I added to the end of the proofreading: "Dave, this is my new favorite book. It took me having to pore over it for me to finally realize all of the fine, sharp nuances. Not very funny, but a masterpiece. You definitely deserve to be very proud of it. Even if that might be a sin. ;)"

Dave Sim said...

Jeff- I forgot to mention: if you can send a receipt for the OED you bought as well as a receipt for the MINDS you bought from Menachem's ESCAPE POD COMICS (or either), you will definitely be reimbursed by Aardvark-Vanaheim for the expenses. I mean, come ON -- what need would you otherwise have had for an OED?

I hope Sean can find the usual complement of borderline calls in this one so we can throw them into the Obsessive Proofreading Shark Pond. FEEDING FRENZY!

Jeff Seiler said...

Are you kidding, Dave?!? You forget to whom you (no)...writing (no)...calling (no, definitely not calling, for a good long time now)...posting (no, not quite)...commenting.

I'm (dunh, dunh, dunh!)...Dictionary Lad!!!

And, I finally own an OED! Something I've (nearly, but not quite, because that would be a sin) coveted for decades.

So, no.

But you can send me 18 bucks for the phonebook, since I will send it to you for the Cerebus Archive, once Sean sends it back to me--after he's finished making the corrections. I think you'll like it--I used a pink highlighter.

Yes, the Shark Pond. Just observe my pearly yellows, chomping at the bit (to mix metaphors). And, we've come full circle, as you know I'm a frenzied Parrothead. "Feeding Frenzy" is the name of Jimmy Buffett's first live album.

But, then, you already knew that, didn't you, you closet Parrothead, you? ;)

Dave Sim said...

Jeff - It's "champing" at the bit, isn't it?

Jeff Seiler said...

D'oh! Yup, you're right. Good thing typos don't "count" when you're texting or commenting. ;)