Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

More Blood, More Pus, More Mucus

"None of this PR crap anymore. It's a bad habit, and I'll be the one to break you of it, by God."

"This is horrible, this stuff about your mother. Just awful, Susie."

Not since my father had someone called me Susie. And not since my father had the endearment arrived with such menace.

"It's what I call 'writing writing,' and you simply must not do it. It's beneath you."

Though it was my first writing submission to Judith, she'd tasked me with assistant duties well before I worked for the Reader. Each Thursday I'd load my arms with foot-tall stacks of inky issues to send her friends and family tear sheets of her stories.

"None of this PR crap anymore. It's a bad habit, and I'll be the one to break you of it, by God. Stop watching that loathsome thirtysomething and read a book."

Deemed undereducated and functionally illiterate, I was to begin "at once" my supplementary education. "You might as well start at the beginning of the alphabet," she sighed. "Jane Austen will hold your interest. She talks about clothes and class." (Years later, when I mentioned reading Proust -- proud to be well into the ps -- she dismissed it as "decorative" and hung up the phone without saying good-bye.)

Over the years, my editing remained inconsistent at best, the ragged graph of remedial learning made public on the paper's weekly pages. Misspelled proper names, unnecessary articles, egregious "-ly" endings filled a bottomless repository. For every seamless rewrite or "good catch," two mistakes were missed. When the final misdeed toppled a tower of carelessness, the tone chilled, the message clipped, the phone grew silent.

One more grammar checklist instigated, another poetry course suggested. Hadn't I parsed a sentence in grade school?

When I did write, pandering to her prurience became the subtext of every assignment. More blood, more pus, more viscous yellow mucus, more fetid, familiar body odor of unwashed armpits and "lady parts," as she called them. The more baroque and visceral my description, the better the shame on the page.

"I want praise," she'd demand after finessing a feature or teasing out a recalcitrant story subject. I was often second if not first reader, losing myself in story and style instead of corralling wayward words and errant commas. "We don't pay you to read, Susie. We pay you to find my mistakes."

Fifteen years later, when good reviews of her third book Fat Girl surfaced early and often, daily dispatches arrived in lieu of other communication. As blurbs increased in number and status, I struggled to find fresh ways to respond. "This is wonderful!" and "You should be so pleased..." reduced to "Bravo!" and "WOW."

I couldn't finish the book, and by then our story had soured. I'd grown tiresome and untenable, and she was done with all that.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Unexpected views from some San Diego African Americans

"I don't care if you're black or white"
Next Article

Mostra Coffee is finally caffeinating 4S Ranch

Local micro roaster of the year replaces a boring chain coffeeshop

"This is horrible, this stuff about your mother. Just awful, Susie."

Not since my father had someone called me Susie. And not since my father had the endearment arrived with such menace.

"It's what I call 'writing writing,' and you simply must not do it. It's beneath you."

Though it was my first writing submission to Judith, she'd tasked me with assistant duties well before I worked for the Reader. Each Thursday I'd load my arms with foot-tall stacks of inky issues to send her friends and family tear sheets of her stories.

"None of this PR crap anymore. It's a bad habit, and I'll be the one to break you of it, by God. Stop watching that loathsome thirtysomething and read a book."

Deemed undereducated and functionally illiterate, I was to begin "at once" my supplementary education. "You might as well start at the beginning of the alphabet," she sighed. "Jane Austen will hold your interest. She talks about clothes and class." (Years later, when I mentioned reading Proust -- proud to be well into the ps -- she dismissed it as "decorative" and hung up the phone without saying good-bye.)

Over the years, my editing remained inconsistent at best, the ragged graph of remedial learning made public on the paper's weekly pages. Misspelled proper names, unnecessary articles, egregious "-ly" endings filled a bottomless repository. For every seamless rewrite or "good catch," two mistakes were missed. When the final misdeed toppled a tower of carelessness, the tone chilled, the message clipped, the phone grew silent.

One more grammar checklist instigated, another poetry course suggested. Hadn't I parsed a sentence in grade school?

When I did write, pandering to her prurience became the subtext of every assignment. More blood, more pus, more viscous yellow mucus, more fetid, familiar body odor of unwashed armpits and "lady parts," as she called them. The more baroque and visceral my description, the better the shame on the page.

"I want praise," she'd demand after finessing a feature or teasing out a recalcitrant story subject. I was often second if not first reader, losing myself in story and style instead of corralling wayward words and errant commas. "We don't pay you to read, Susie. We pay you to find my mistakes."

Fifteen years later, when good reviews of her third book Fat Girl surfaced early and often, daily dispatches arrived in lieu of other communication. As blurbs increased in number and status, I struggled to find fresh ways to respond. "This is wonderful!" and "You should be so pleased..." reduced to "Bravo!" and "WOW."

I couldn't finish the book, and by then our story had soured. I'd grown tiresome and untenable, and she was done with all that.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Football: a career low for Lucille Ball

A darker shade of twilight
Next Article

Mostra Coffee is finally caffeinating 4S Ranch

Local micro roaster of the year replaces a boring chain coffeeshop
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close