Thursday, June 16, 2011

Proofing, indexing

After a few quiet months — quiet on my end, anyway — my book is back in my lap again. I now have page proofs in front of me, and I have two tasks to complete: (1) proofreading the entire book one more time, now that it has been copyedited by McFarland and laid out by their design staff; and (2) writing the index for the book.

The first task shouldn’t be too tedious. My editor at McFarland made a point of telling me the manuscript was already very clean, and I don’t think a great deal of copyediting was done silently. I have noticed a few changes (e.g., I had written an “about the editor” blurb for myself, separate from the rest of the “about the contributors” blurbs, but McFarland collapsed them into a single list, and put me in the proper spot alphabetically). Now that the book has been laid out, I can tell you that it is [xii] + 217 pages in length. That’s not counting the index, which might add another ten pages or so.

The second task will be more of a challenge, since I have never put together an index before. Well, I guess I can’t say never. I included an index with my fourth-grade school project on Saturn (the planet, not the god), and perhaps for one or two other school projects in the two or three years following. But somehow I don’t think these early experiences will help very much. For one thing, the material being indexed was only ten or so handwritten pages, each half-filled with photos cut out of National Geographic Magazine. Fortunately, for this index, I have the benefit of the advice of friends and colleagues who’ve been through it before.

The quicker I can get the proofing and indexing finished, the sooner the book will be out. Not that I’m going to sacrifice quality for speed. I’m a patient guy, and it’s been nearly three years since I first began to think about this book already. A little while longer isn’t going to hurt. As Gollum said, “more haste less speed”. Eile mit weile, am I right? Or, maggior fretta minor alto. See also: proverbs (cliché), proverbs (foreign language).

McFarland has tentatively scheduled Tolkien and the Study of His Sources to go to the printer four weeks from yesterday: July 13. I don’t know how long the printing process takes, but it is beginning to look like the date shown on most of the major booksellers’ websites (that is, August 16) might actually be accurate after all. Or at least close. My editor had warned me it would likely be later in the Fall.

I suppose we’ll see soon enough, but for those of you interested in the book, you really don’t have that much longer to wait. I am abuzz with excitement at the imminence of hearing what you all think. Review copies will also be going out before too much longer. Then, if the reception is good, it will be time to bask in my accolades — or if not so good, to duck. :)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Professor Quirrell

Potterphiles will remember “p-p-poor, st-stuttering P-Professor Quirrell”, the ill-fated DADA teacher in Harry Potter’s first year at Hogwarts. For an etymology of the name Quirrell, I’ve seen a few different theories. I give them here in order or popularity and likelihood (in my opinion, of course):
  1. From squirrel, evoking the furtive, fearful, scurrying mannerisms of the familiar rodent — the most common theory, by far, and the most likely explanation;
  2. From Middle English querele (< Old French querele < Latin queri) “complaint, lament(ation)” — going back to same root that gives us querulous — from Quirrell’s whining, complaining personality; or
  3. From Middle English querele “quarrel, dispute, altercation” — going back to the same root as the previous, but with more belligerent than sniveling connotations.
  4. And incidentally, it might just be possible that Rowling borrowed the name from Stephen R. Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever series, which has a character named Quirrel.
I’m not sure whether Rowling herself ever said anything about this particular name, but I happened upon a word in the Oxford English Dictionary which may shed some light on the etymology: quirily, an adverb marked both rare and obsolete, meaning “perh[aps]: quiveringly” (the first edition OED has a question mark in place of the “perhaps”). This certainly sounds like a word that could have suggested the name, Quirrell, don’t you think? It definitely reinforces Quirrell’s diffident personality.

The “perhaps” and question mark indicate that the makers of the OED themselves were not sure of the meaning. A single citation is offered to attest the word, from Richard Stanyhurst’s 1582 translation, The First Foure Bookes of Virgils Æneis: “Soom doe slise owt collops on spits yeet quirilye trembling” (Book I). Of all the strange coincidences, coming across collops again is one of the most unlikely! Stanyhurst’s translation is not well-regarded. No less than C.S. Lewis called it “a monstrosity”, “trounced as it deserves” by most critics, with “no place in the history of even the English hexameter, for it is barely English” [1]. Harsh words!

Whether Rowling had ever come across this word is not at all certain, but it’s possible. She’s admitted to getting names from references like Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1870) and Nicholas Culpeper’s Complete Herbal (1653), and she’s resurrected a number of obsolete and dialectal words, such as dumbledore, hagrid, and mundungus. Why not the OED?

On the other hand, it seems she isn’t the inveterate dictionary-diver I would have expected. In a 2005 interview, Stephen Fry asked her, “Now do you actually trawl through books of rare words or OED or things, or are they [your names] just things that you somehow, you’ve got a good memory for words?” Rowling replied, “I don’t really trawl books. They tend to be things I’ve collected or stumbled across in general reading.” It seems more than a bit unlikely that quirily would ever come up in general reading. Then again, neither would dumbledore, hagrid, or mundungus.

[1] Lewis, C S. English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, Excluding Drama. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954, p. 365.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Blurbin’ Cowboy

So, I’m happy to report that my friend Doug Kane’s excellent book, Arda Reconstructed: The Creation of the Published Silmarillion, is being released in softcover. The original hardcover edition was pretty expensive ($65, though occasionally discounted a bit), and while this is not atypical for academic works, it did put Doug’s book beyond the budgets of many. The softcover is about half that price, which should make it possible for more people to read it. And if you haven’t, you should; it’s no accident the book has been a finalist for the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inklings Studies two years running. The softcover is being released June 28, according to the publisher’s website.

But I’m excited about this softcover reissue for another reason too. For the first time in my career as a reviewer, you’ll find me among the blurbs adorning the cover of a book — and not just once, but twice. I had nothing to do with this, by the way. I didn’t suggest myself or anything like that. In fact, I only learned of it when I saw the newly designed cover. In addition to the back cover of the book itself, you can also see my blurbs here, on another page at the publisher’s website. You’ll spot the excerpt from my review in Mythlore right away (read the entire review online); the one from The Literary Encyclopedia is also mine (blurbed without a byline).