October 1, 2010
Speaking as a male editor, my work life is punctuated with temptations. There are the dull, familiar and routine tasks that are required to keep books and major projects on schedule. This is the narrow and steep way of the editorial life. But then there are the delicious intellectual strumpets. They arrive in my inbox with a flourish of bells, a come-hither pose and a flutter of batted eyelashes.
I know that yielding to these temptresses—even if they are innocently dressed up as “Justification” or “Atonement”—will leave my “To Do” list looking like Lady Folly’s little black book: full and littered with personal tragedies. But that doesn’t stop me. I’m in this business for the kicks.
So when a long-awaited manuscript arrives, who am I to put it on ice while the author languishes? Or when a proposal comes in that promises to drive The Man to the altar to repent of his views, who am I to stand in the way of grace and truth? Or when an essay comes in by the Big Guy at the div school, it probably deserves an immediate reading, don’t you think? Or even when an unlikely proposal comes in, why should I withhold my engagement with this author’s ideas?
Here’s the deal. Many of us who became editors did not do so because we thought we would love the dull and boring routines of publishing. We became editors because we had the habit of snatching up books as soon as they were published. (To irrevocably date myself, I clearly remember doing this with Francis Schaeffer’s books from IVP in the very early 1970s.) And then, as barely employable prospective editor types, we got to thinking that it would be far cooler to read the books before they were published! What if we could just bypass this whole printing and purchasing thing and get to the source of this cataract of text? And so we did.
A fresh proposal or manuscript is like catnip to an editor. It holds the promise of being the next big thing, an escape from the droning cycle of the routine. And the recent summer months were high season for the new. It’s when academics generally have the time to think and dream, and explore plans for future research and publication. So my disciplined self is sort of happy that summer is now past and I can get down to serious business of dictionaries and stuff like that.
But then—Zzzzzzing! What was that?! Hmm. A proposal on Why Evangelicalism Won’t Last the Next Decade Unless… . by You Know Who. Well, it’s an Indian summer now, and this clearly deserves an immediate reading.