An article by Doreen Westphal, who has supported the writing workshop as editor for five years now
Editors love to read. They always read and feel at home in the world of texts. That connects them with the authors. What sets them apart: they do not have to write. Sometimes they do not even like it, they have a hard time with it.
Because they are always reading, if they become acquainted with texts, their competence in assessing their quality sets in. You can distinguish good from less good. And they know how to make really good ones even better.
There’s no need to be jealous, even friendship can arise when dealing with brilliant authors. For being allowed to stay in their textual worlds is the reward for many years of diligent and tireless reading. A friendship between an author and his editor is also at the heart of Genius, a British-American biopic from 2016.
It is about a true story, the friendship between Max Perkins and Thomas Wolfe – first editor at the New York publishing house “Charles Scribner’s Sons”, the latter alongside Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald the genius of American literature in the first half of the 20th century , But before he could do that, he had to take a lot of rejections.
Even as he sits in the office of the star editor after his review of the huge pile of paper, the manuscript of O Lost, later: Look Homeward, Angel, he is prepared for a renewed rejection and really surprised when he tells him: ” We will print your manuscript “and give him an advance of $ 500.
What we viewers know: Perkins thoroughly enjoyed the review and immediately felt that he was dealing with a great literary talent in Thomas Wolfe. Colin Firth makes that understandable for us.
He shows the silent, yet introverted, tireless text worker, who reads page after page after page after page, page after page in his office, in his office, every day on the train home, arrived there in the closet, after he was in vain in his large villa looking for a vacant room. All are occupied, either by one of his five daughters or his wife and their theater group. He reads … and strokes. That seems to make up most of his work: freeing the text of ballast, exposing it for the time being.
That this does not suit the author who depends on every word is clear. Jude Law gives the euphoric Thomas Wolfe. But Perkins can convince him. Because he takes him seriously and keeps emphasizing, “That’s your text, you decide, but look here … Think again about the title … Go into the character: How does Eugene feel about him? fall in love …”
That’s really wonderful to look at: two men who both understand their craft and develop a very fruitful working relationship that produces bestsellers. And of course, beyond that, or especially because of that, they are getting closer to each other.
The editor today is probably only occasionally found with a red pencil. He works on word files and uses corrections and suggestions for the correction mode. Otherwise, my professional life differs but hardly from the one shown in the film: I read and read and read and read …