Friday, 25 July 2014

DM's Back Story: Read and Learn

I am reading David Mitchell's memoir, Back Story. For those of you who do not know who David Mitchell is: what planet have you been living on? I am referring to the comedian, not to the novelist.

He's funny, as the cute redhead of no more than twenty-three commented to me as she rung up the sale of the book. I quite agree. David is hilarious.

Mr. Mitchell is well-known for his trademark rants. Although I don't always agree with his point of view, I do find him highly amusing and always look forward to his appearances on British panel games. (The discussion with Dara O'Briain about psychics and evolution was way off base, but that was Dara's supposition and David was a guest on Dara's DVD and would naturally not challenge Dara's hypothesis. That and Dara could squash him like a bug. Mr. O'Briain (also a very funny fellow in his own right and miles smarter than I'll ever be) put forth the notion that, based on evolution, if psychic abilities did exist, we would all have them by now. Well, no. Evolution isn't just about gaining things; it's about losing them as well. That's why we don't have tails. Evolution is finding what works and what doesn't work. Does he really think the ability for all of humanity to hear each other's thoughts would be a good thing? I think it would drive us crazy, or at least more crazy than we've already driven ourselves.)

Mr. Mitchell is also known for his impressive vocabulary. This is why it boggles my mind to find so many proofreading and editing errors contained within Back Story.

I could understand the mountain of comma faux pas (almost every time I see the word 'but' the comma is either missing or in the wrong place) and occasional other trip-up (such as not capitalizing a name like the Force) if this book had been self-published, but it was not. It was printed and distributed by a major publishing house: HarperCollins.

Even an under-educated buffoon like me knows that a comma generally comes before a 'but'. It's easy for me to remember because I like a woman with a pretty face and sodium (that's NA, or nice ass), one that is pleasant to behold whether she is coming or going. (This from the man with no ass. It's true. I own now donkeys and my buttocks are as flat as the Prairies.) How does that work? Look at the shape of the comma. Never mind the bubble butt; a comma butt is just as appealing. If you think that's sexist, then apply it to men. Do you prefer a man with a firm or flabby butt? I think the old ad slogan 'so round, so firm, so fully packed' hits the mark.

But if I, the most middle-class of the middle-class (my name is Mittler, after all, which means 'middle man') am constantly being ripped away from David's delightful story of his life by niggling imperfections, how are the more educated among us going to survive to the end?

What happened? Did David insist that he knew better and refused to allow his words to be subjected to the editor's scrutiny? Did the people at HarperCollins decide that a man of David Mitchell's impeccable knowledge would naturally write a picture perfect piece that needed no editing? Or were the editors at HarperCollins so terrified at the mere thought of suggesting minute changes to the manuscript that they cowered like frightened children in a thunderstorm and did nothing? Did they fear being flogged by the posh man off the telly? (Not that, as far as I know, David has ever physically beaten anyone (except at games like ping pong), not even a servant. Tongue lashings are another story and those splayed by the venomous Mitchell mouth have only themselves to blame.)

Perhaps the original manuscript, as presented to HarperCollins by Mr. Mitchell was, indeed, perfect in every respect and only after some junior editor flunky (who scrambled at the chance to boast that she or he had worked on a celebrity memoir) made a hash of it, was the world presented with the work in such a flawed form.

Another theory is that Back Story was written the way David speaks. You can certainly hear him telling the story, if you've been exposed to enough of his material. But that still does not excuse the imperfection of the editing. David's voice will still shine through with proper punctuation and capitalization.

I do admire Mr. Mitchell and think the world is a better place with him here, but I wouldn't consider myself a raving fan. I'm certainly not about to fly to Britain to go through his bins to find out which takeaway place he and Victoria prefer most.

Despite the grievous editing oversights, you should buy Back Story. It's a picturesque tour of part of London, packed with insights into the upbringing of one of Britain's funniest men. Self-published authors should also pick up a copy, just so they can tsk tsk at a big publishing house making so many boneheaded errors.

David Mitchell has a new book coming out in November. I can't wait to read it.

Yes, I realize there are probably plenty of editing errors in this blog, but I'm not an editor. That's not my job. Your task now is to get your hands on David Mitchell's Back Story.

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