Here Two Characters Emerge: An Accidental Collaboration

Exploring collaboration as form and process. Writing as engagement, performance, social event, proximity, experiment. 

by Teresa Carmody04_losung_1977

The process of collaboration is often a process of letting go, as working with others brings that many more subjectivities into the creative space. Yet the final object may not satisfy any one of the collaborators—this is the risk, the possibility of having no thing to show at the end of the collaborated day.

But what about something that wasn’t intended to be a thing at all? Can a collaborative text be written unwittingly? The copyediting correspondence between Les Figues author Michael du Plessis and copyeditor David Emanuel is as an example of such an accidental collaboration. The manuscript proof of Michael’s book, The Memoirs of JonBenet by Kathy Acker, had already gone through several copyeditors by the time I asked David Emanuel to read it. Michael’s book is a very nuanced collage and needed a final set of well-read and well-honed eyes. I wasn’t disappointed. David returned the proof with a long list of edits that I promptly forwarded to Michael. And when Michael emailed his responses, I found myself reading a document that was far more stimulating than the function it was designed to serve. David and Michael do not know each other; to this day, they haven’t met. In the text, however, they emerge as literary characters, who both embody and exceed their roles of “author” and “copyeditor.” And this is their collaboration.

Image, Collective Actions, Journey to the Countrysides 1, Text translates: I DO NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT ANYTHING AND I ALMOST LIKE IT HERE, ALTHOUGH I HAVE NEVER BEEN HERE BEFORE AND KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THIS PLACE. (quote from A. Monastyrski’s book Nothing happens).

Selections for The Copyediting Correspondence of Michael du Plessis & David Emanuel

DE:  Note from copyeditor: Michael Du Plessis’ use of hyphens is not always totally consistent, so I’ve attempted to create some consistency where it doesn’t always exist. At times, there is a larger conceptual question hanging on the hyphen or its lack. I’ve tried to keep what seems very intentional in, while rendering other instances of the hyphen or its lack uniform. One in particular (and really the only one on which a decision has to be made) is “grown up” vs. “grown-up” vs. “grownup.” I believe I’ve found every instance of the three, and I will point to all instances so that whichever convention is deemed the appropriate one (and I advocate for “grown-up”) can be easily inserted into the text uniformly. I’ve put all instances of the various forms in a list at the very end. And I’ve attached this as a PDF too.

Here we go:

Colophon: First line, should “du” be joined with “Plessis” so that Michael’s last name isn’t cut across two lines?

MdP:  YES. BTW, Peggy is correct that I am always du “Plessis’s” in possessive apostrophe since the last “s” is silent! “Dickens’” but “du Plessis’s”

* * *

DE: Chapter 1, P. 19, 6 lines from bottom of page: “husky-Labrador-coyote-chow-German Shepherd mix.” While the G in German Shepherd has to be capitalized, the S should not be.

MdP:  Because the “German shepherd” is part of a really long compound, I’d really like to keep it (ungrammatically capitalized). I’m worried without it, that the shepherd would look too dangling. But “Chow” should be capitalized, too, I realize now. So—let’s capitalize “Chow” and then have “shepherd” with a lower case. Looking up the rule, I realized that husky should be “Siberian husky” (to make it different from the adjective). Could we have the whole phrase read: “Siberian husky-Labrador-coyote-Chow-German shepherd” please? If not, just lower case as per proofreader’s suggestions.

DE:  P.20, line 6: “grownup.”

MdP:  Change then to “grown-up.”

DE:  Chapter 2: P. 22, lines 7-8: “…I take those whimsical bus lines the Hop, the Skip, the Jump, all on my own….” I suggest using em dashes here: “I take those whimsical bus lines—the Hop, the Skip, the Jump—all on my own…”

MdP:  YES.

DE:  Paragraph beginning “Where are you off to?”: we have a “grownups” here.

MdP:  “grown-ups” then.

DE: Last paragraph, 4 lines from bottom of page: “this is no enchanted carrousel” correct spelling to “carousel.”

MdP:  NO. You know, I looked this up in my Oxford American Dictionary (2001) which gives both variations as correct. I got this comment last time, too—maybe it’s a French word here? No change.

* * *

DE:  Last two entries in that list: amusingly, neither of these words are in the OED, but they are in Webster’s dictionary. Just pointing it out to point it out. Chapter 4, P. 38, line 4: “hackeysack” should be either “hackey sack” or “hacky sack”.

MdP:  YES. Let’s go with “hacky sack.”

* * *

DE:  Second full paragraph, lines 1-2: “Bolder Boulder” is not a marathon but a 10K.

MdP:  NO.  I don’t understand this distinction and no-one in my fiction will either. 🙂

* * *

DE:  Chapter 5: P. 49, 5th full paragraph, line 4: “Matter speaks, sublates Spirit unto itself….” According to the OED’s illustration of using sublate in this manner, the proper usage is sublate INTO and not sublate UNTO (1979, Y. Yovel, “Makes it rational and sublates its past history INTO a rationally necessary moment…”)

MdP:  NO, emphatically. Logically and semantically, “unto” means “to”—“into” keeps them separate—in OE, “unto” is a cognate of “up to,” which is perfect here. Sublation, here, is always a picking up—I’m playing on the German of Aufhebung (literally, “raising up,” but H’s term for sublation.). I can’t recall my source material here, but anyway part of the joke here is the archaism. “Sublates into” sounds way too smooth for this figure’s voice, which is one of the most archaic in the text. I wanted the Biblical resonance, too.

* * *

DE:  P. 61, first full paragraph, line 6: is there an extra space between the ” and “Is”? Could just be weirdness, could be an extra space.

MdP:  YES, does look like extra space.

DE:  Next paragraph: same question in lines 6 and 10. Probably fine, but double check.

MdP:  YES, these do look like extra spaces.

DE:  Last paragraph, line 7: change “rising middle classes’?” to “rising middle classes?’”

MdP:  NO, emphatically, because the question is JB’s and not the definition she’s citing—and the question mark goes with and repeats the previous question and question mark.

* * *

 DE:  P. 62, third paragraph, line 3: “Lady Purple a bad puppet?,” This is a rather crazy moment of free indirect discourse the comma can probably go, but I can see an argument for letting it remain.

MdP:  YES, we should change this. “Wasn’t Lady Purple a bad puppet, I ask, for I recall reading The Notorious Amours of Lady Purple, the Shameless Oriental Venus.” And note that the first “The” should be italicized, please.

* * *

DE:  I have grumbles about some of the semicolons in the following paragraph, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them…

MdP:  Keep semi-colons—one’s from Hoffmann and I like the other.

* * *

 DE:  TK, last line: Hyôgo should be spelled Hyʔgo.

MdP:  NO? I see Wikipedia spells it Hyōgo—can’t make out person’s [copyeditor’s] diacritical sign. I got this from the real LLF, who was a bad BF, but an expert in various forms of Japanese (which he teaches to this day at a Japanese uni, so I don’t doubt him, on this point, at least), but if you want to go with general Anglophone at least as per Wikipedia, change it, although, the ō is less guttural than the ô and the whole point of the note is non-standardized usage anyway. I see that we get both on the web with the ô slightly more frequently—I’d keep it, since it’s a character’s discourse anyway. P. 65: it seems that a lot of space has been skipped after “Phantom.” Can we eliminate it? Same issue as on P. 45.

* * *

 DE:  Paragraph beginning “I’m thinking of Little Lord Fauntleroy again…,” line 5: I can come up with no good reason for Gestures to be capitalized. Actually, I’m realizing that it used to read, “the Gestures You Make When You Find Your Boyfriend’s Drowned” but somehow the other capitals got lost along the way. So, keep “Gestures” but add “You Make When You Find Your Boyfriend’s Drowned.” Line 8: “grown-up”

MdP:  YES, keep now with hyphen.

DE:  P. 78, line 11: “looking up the painting” I believe this should read “looking up at the painting” since narrator spends the whole trip in front of the painting, s/he is probably not looking it up from time to time, but looking up from the catalogue to the painting.

MdP:  YES! Sorry, the “at” got dropped. The change is perfectly correct.

* * *

 DE:  Third full paragraph, line two: “Boulder-Free Zone” According to the Stephen King fan wikis of the world, in the Stand, it is referred to as the “Boulder Free Zone” or just the “Free Zone” which makes the hyphen a bit awkward and inappropriate here, though it does tend to a bit of conceptual work in the sentence.

MdP:  Okay, take out the hyphen of 3rd paragraph, line two, but absolutely keep hyphen with “Boulder-Free” in line three.

* * *

DE:  Line 12-13: “If Dorian Gray were a Boulder teen, he’d be she.” Actually, he’d be her. She is in the object position in that sentence, so what’s necessary to make the sentence correct is the object pronoun.

MdP:  NO!!! This is one of my current pet peeves—the assumption that the noun at the end of “to be” is somehow in the object position. On the contrary, states of being and copulatives always take the nominative on both sides of the verb; as such, they are fundamentally different from verbs of action that do take direct objects. For example, “I kissed him” (direct object), yes, but it’s not a grammatical logic that then applies that structure to “I am him” as opposed to the correct “I am he.” So, absolutely, “he’d be she.”

* * *

DE: P. 98, Last full paragraph, line 1: “You sink through water slick and iridescent” should read “You sink through water, slick and iridescent”

MdP:  No, setting off the adjectives will make them seem (misleadingly) like a displaced modifier of “you”—it’s the water that’s slick and iridescent, so I wouldn’t take out the comma here.

DE:  P. 100, line 6: “diving bell” should be “diving-bell.”

MdP:  NO, my OED gives this as separate words, so let’s keep it as is—it’s also structurally parallel to “leaden submarine,” etc.

* * *

DE:  Chapter 11, P. 102, line 3: “be-sashed”? so not a word, but why not.

MdP:  Let’s leave it as is (and yes, I made it up, but by analogy with be-ringed, bewigged, etc.).

DE:  4 lines up from bottom: “church-hall,” The most recent documented usage of “church-hall” instead of “church hall” was in 1777 according the OED. That doesn’t mean this has to be changed, but why not?

MdP:  YES.

* * *

DE:  Last full paragraph, line 6 “teeny teeny” is this a slip up and should be “teeny tiny”?

MdP:  I just liked “teeny teeny.”


Michael du Plessis teaches Comparative Literature and English at the University of Southern California, where he is also completing a masters degree in Professional Writing. His novel, The Memoirs of JonBenet by Kathy Acker, was published by Les Figues Press. He has written about a wide variety of subjects, from Goth culture to the French fin-de-siècle and has also performed, amongst other venues, at Highways and at the MAK Center/Schindler House.

David Emanuel was born and raised in Oklahoma. He then lived in Chicago where he went to school, worked a variety of jobs, and wrote. Currently, he lives in Providence, RI, where he recently joined Anomalous Press as an editor. His writing, both critical and creative, has appeared in How2, Court Green, With + Stand, and elsewhere.

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