Sunday, January 10, 2016


The reviews of Pure Act: The Ucommon Life of Robert Lax, bring to mind Wilfrid Sheed's account of Lax's work on the magazine Jubilee. Sheed writes that Lax would take a manuscript and begin marking out words and sentences. Most editors do this of course, but Lax might continue until tens of pages were reduced to a sentence or even to a word. According to Sheed, Lax did identify what was best in a manuscript, however impractical this was a means of preparing the next issues of the magazine.

I have been reading a book that could use a milder form of that treatment. It appears to me to be an excellent book of 200 or 250 pages: unfortunately, it has been published at 420, not counting index and acknowledgements. Some of this is standard padding, an excess of adjectives and a habit of repeating slightly varied sentences to establish a mood. Some is the author's self-fascination. I can't blame him for finding himself interesting; but I do blame him for then not making us interested in his career, his interviews, his reflections.

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