"What’s the kindest thing you almost did?" You’ll find this sentence by Jonathan Safran Foer on a Chipotle cup next time you eat a burrito there. The fast food restaurant will feature the short stories five authors, including Foer, Malcolm Gladwell, Toni Morrison, George Saunders, and Michael Lewis, on its cups, and unlike guacamole, they won’t cost extra. Unsurprisingly, Cormac McCarthy didn’t make a cup.
I wonder now if it needed to take that long. Because I have cared in the past as much about how something is said as what’s being said, I have made it a point to hone lines and perfect scenes before I know if a character or a plotline will ultimately work. That means I can take forever getting something right, only to have someone like yourself point out that it might be entirely wrong. There’s a bit of a battle/war problem here. By the time I perfect something, the war be damned—look at all the battles I’ve made pretty! It’s an inefficient and self-destructive and often heartbreaking way to work, with the only comfort that of knowing you’ve been faithful even to the scraps.
I’ve since read it a few times for no particular reason, because the thing about Dubliners is that it never loses its capacity to draw me into its confined narrative spaces, with all their cruel precision and humane comedy, all their beauty and their bleakness, their terrible evocations of boredom and desperation and yearning and entrapment. And if you live in Dublin, if you are yourself a Dubliner, no matter how many times you read the book, it will always reveal something profound and essential and unrealized about the city and its people. Somehow or another, it will always hit you where you live.
When a novel is printed in multiple countries, it often has more than one editor. Slate interviews Emma Donoghue; her American editor, Judy Clain; and her Canadian editor, Iris Tupholme, about how they all edited Frog Music. They discuss everything from how to deal with editing disputes to the best way to get edits. “I much prefer to get everyone’s opinions separately, because if I got a single editorial letter, it would be like getting a note from God!” Donoghue says. For more on the editing process, read about our own Edan Lepucki’s relationships with her copy editor and editor.
What would The Road look like as a children’s book? The question is vaguely unsettling, but Jerry Puryear set out to answer it anyway, drawing up detailed mockups of literary children’s books and posting them on his Tumblr. At Slate, a selection of his book covers. (This might be a good time to look back on our US-UK Book Cover Battle.)