Tess of the d’Urbervilles

I’m reading Tess of the d’Urbervilles. It’s not bad, but it could use some revision. I think a good editor would have made all the difference.

For example:

In her despair Tess sprang forward and put her hand upon the hole, with the only result that she became splashed from face to skirt with the crimson drops.

This excerpt is taken from the scene where Tess is on her way to Casterbridge by wagon. She falls asleep and, unable to draw rein sharply, is involved in a crash with an oncoming mail-cart, something akin to the bullet train–for mail. Yet the failure to have properly anticipated e-mail (rendering plodding hooves quite unnecessary) shows that the then editor was somewhat out of his depth. And presently we have this little bit of drama: Prince is mortally wounded. This is perhaps a small quibble, but The Horse Formerly Known as Prince would have been a better name for the nonagenarian beast (it’s certainly more trendy)—and it’s hard to know just who blew this one, the tone-deaf author or the distracted, underpaid editor).

The ‘crimson drops!!!!’ Why not just say blood? Shoddy craftsmanship.
Hole!!! Gash, wound… This novel will never sell more than a few copies.

And this is only one sentence! So goes the salt on a seaman’s lips, so goes the ocean.

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7 Comments

  1. I’m with you, blood would have made for an easier read.

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  2. You really crack me up, Prospero. She was probably going to Casterbridge to see the mayor, Rob Ford.

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  3. Yes:)

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  4. as much as i am laughing here, i can’t restrain myself from wondering how come you, the magician of obliqueness and colourful metaphors, objects to “crimson drops” – it might be the mention of that particular hue of red that enraged you 😛

    i am reading “Heart of Darkness” now – when will i see a post on that one? i am curious!!!

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    • It’s the schizophrenic curse of being both hack writer and hack editor at the same time–and whereas I quite like all things crimson (comme un rideau cramoisi, par exemple), my editor objected vehemently. So I did the reasonable thing-I sent him to the bread line (with a crimson basket). Crimson basket! It really sounds like I’m sending him to keep Marie Antoinette (et le petit Papillon) company.

      Darn French revolution. It seems that one can’t say anything nowadays without it popping up.

      Please feel free to correct my Polish.

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    • Heart of Darkness. Never heard of it. Is it available in comic-book form? Reading long descriptive passages while comfortably seated in a weathered, bug-brown, decidedly soporific wicker chaise longue is such a giftless chore.

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  5. You’re right – the sentence does come across as clunky.

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