Thursday, September 26, 2013

Credit is due

The official release date of the Job book isn't until October 23rd, but I have now seen my first copy that someone other than me purchased - a friend got it delivered overnight from Amazon. We're officially in previews! What happens next is detailed in a long "marketing plan" I got in the mail yesterday, a rather overwhelming campaign of "personal calls to many major media outlets in the United States and in the United Kingdom," galleys sent to assorted "book review editors, radio and television producers, and online media (blogs, etc.)," copies of the book and a press release sent to even more, displays at academic meetings and advertisements - all backed up by the Press' connections to 5000 bookstores, maintained by 10 sales representatives always on the road. From the letter I learned also that the book is appearing both in "print and e-book" format! So a few more copies may sell...

It's high time I make clear how many people have contributed to the book's appearance - something I wasn't, due to inexperience, able to do in the book itself: I was assuming the press would ask me late in the process for Acknowledgments - an unnumbered page so not important in the typesetting I thought - but they never did. Not that giving credit everywhere it's due is easy, either. I'm an ambient learner, knowingly and unknowingly transposing things rather quickly from one context to others, and inspired and sustained by many people who might not even have known much more than that this book was happening. (A list of intellectual debts would start with Victor Preller, who taught me how to understand the slow round of faith, argument and ritual, and Jerry Schneewind, who taught me how to think historically about ethics and ethically about history, but the list would go on and on - and few folks on it would even know I'd been working on Job!) I did ask all sorts of people for advice along the way but I didn't pass the manuscript around among established scholars or colleagues.

Working with Princeton University Press has been a dream, as my project passed from one brilliant professional to another, from the commissioning editor Fred Appel and his assistant to the copywriter, picture editor, typesetter, cover designer, indexer, publicist... It takes a village! The outside readers were critical and generous - one let me know who he was, and we skyped through a meticulous line-by-line edit.

The most important help and inspiration turns out to have come from students and ex-students, so it was appropriate that I shared a bottle of pro secco tonight with three - Kendall Storey, who works in publishing, Nick Laccetti who helped with the manuscript (more below), and Candace West, who was there way back when I first taught about Job in "The Problem of Evil" at Princeton years ago. Missing were only members of my two Job courses at Lang, the syllabus of the first of which - a freshman seminar my first semester there - it was that got me the commission to write this book in the first place. And Brian FitzGerald, another Princeton alum who has inspired me ambiently over the years, who provided indispensable advice along the way and was the first person to read through the whole manuscript, patiently skyping with defensive me for hours over matters of diction, definition and direction.

Everyone in the Spring 2010 Lang seminar course on readings of the Book of Job deserves mention: James Angelos, Will Baker, Nate Cummings-Lambert, Chantel Duhamel, Teresa Franco, Peter Lamson, Liz Light, Helena Martin, Kingsley McCandless, Liana Russo. The joy and challenge of spending serious time with serious (but not too serious) people over Job helped clarify what it was my book could and should try to do. Much from the class discussions found its way into the book by way of this blog. Come to think of it, SunnySideUp2006-7.blogspot.com merits an acknowledgment of its own, as it has been my laboratory not only for intellectual synthesis and exploration but also for working on voice.

My greatest debt goes to Nicholas Laccetti, there for tonight's pro secco, but for whose enthusiasm the book might not have come together. Nick's a Lang alum of unusual learning and insight whose unfailing sense of significance as well as of verbal grace rescued the manuscript from pointless pedantries as well as the more than occasionally teutonic turgidity of my prose (see what I mean?). He also helped me think about potential audiences for the book, their concerns, and how best to address them. If it flies, it's due in no small part to his vision.

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