Thursday, March 28, 2013

Who needs copy editørs?

I don't like crime-novel cover copy that brags that the author is a lawyer for the same reason that I don't like covers that identify the author as So-and-so, Ph.D. Such braggart branding plays on the intellectual insecurity of readers. It's a not so subtle effort to bully shoppers into thinking that the author must be smarter than they are, so they will either improve themselves by buying the book or else get a dirty little insider's glimpse at a world they would never know without the author's help.

Me, I don't give a crap what authors are or what degrees they have; I want to know what they can do.

I was thinking about this while reading the following this evening on the back cover of a trade paperback edition of Easy Money by Jens Lapidus when something else caught my attention:
"From one of Sweden's most successful defense lawyer(sic) comes an unflinching look at Stockholm's underworld."
Someone's not paying to have cover copy proofread carefully.

And note the o with a slash in the cover's rendering of the book's title. Jens Lapidus is Swedish, and he wrote the book in Swedish. Ø is a letter in Danish, Norwegian, and Faroese — but not Swedish.

***
In recognition of professional reality, I have taken a number of the posts I'd previously classified as "Things that drive me nuts" and reindexed them under the heading "Who needs copy editors?" Read them and weep. Just don't expect to be paid for your tears.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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11 Comments:

Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Guess they couldn't find the umlaut. But had the ø left over from Nesbø. And what is the point, other than a faux literary / linguistic pretension, of its appearance in the word "money"?

Same meaningless pretension as that in Häagen-Dazs and Mötley Crüe.

We English-language users must have some kind of diacritics envy.

March 29, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I figure the ø was a tag to let the reader know that yes, this is a Scandinavian crime novel. Jens Lapidus is not the most Scandinavian-sounding name, and who can blame publishers for trying to ride the Stieg Larsson/Scandinavian bandwagon until its wheels fall off?

I suspect that publishers and designers either did not know that Swedish does not use the ø, or else they thought that the Swedish equivalent, ö, might look German rather than Swedish. That even ö would have no place in money is yet another matter.

Speaking of ö's, I found two books by Per Wahlöö, written without Maj Sjöwall, during the evening's browsing. I didn't buy them, but I may investigate further.

March 29, 2013  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

I see the original Swedish title is Snabba cash. Harumph. I don't think "we" Norwegians would stoop to substituting "cash" for penger.

But I like the sound of snabba...

March 29, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And I love the sound of Snabba cash. It sounds like the name of a character.

I hope nothing I write here will be construed as an attack on Jens Lapidus. He wrote an introduction to one of the volumes in the reissue a few years ago of the Martin Beck novels, and I always like to see an author pay respects to the masters.

But criminy, the guff surrounding this book. The edition I looked at has a blurb from James Ellroy that says something like "Finally a European epic to rival the Stieg Larsson books." I hope he meant that as a bit of a jab at Stieg Larsson, as in,"It's about time that over-hyped tyro had a rival." I know you don't like Ellroy, but his novels are arguably epic in scope. I'm not at all sure I'd say the same for Larsson's.

March 29, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Snabba cash, you say? So, Swedish puts the adjective before the noun it modifies? I always assume that languages other than English do otherwise.

March 29, 2013  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Well, I'm willing to concede that Jens Lapidus's books might be the best thing since sliced Julebrød... but living in Los Angeles, albeit not in (on?) its sordid underbelly, I did chuckle a bit at the description: "an unflinching look at Stockholm's underworld."

Oh, and a film version, with Dutch subtitles, of Snabba cash (now available on DVD) is almost as good: Snel geld. Here's the Dutch summary for your delectation: Drie jonge mannen in Stockholm zijn via hun droom van snelverdiend geld met elkaar verbonden: een huurling uit het voormalig Joegoslavië, een Chileense drugsdealer en een Zweedse student.

It's available, with English subtitles, under the same title as the novel, i.e. Easy Money.

March 29, 2013  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

I always assume that languages other than English do otherwise

Isn't it mainly the European Romance languages that place the adjective after the noun it modifies? Norwegian and German also place the adjective first.

March 29, 2013  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

That was an excellent catch. I would never have known about that letter not being available in Swedish.

I also agree about the intellectual bullying.

It works two ways though. Whenever Dr Laura insists that you call her Dr Laura you know that she's the one feeling insecure.

March 29, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, in re Stockholm's "sordid underbelly" (and I presume the publishers expect prospective buyers to read that phraser with a straight face): I guess that means Swedish crime writers can turn their pens to probing sordid underbellies now that they've finished ripping aside veils to lay bare the realities roiling beneath idyllic surface of the welfare state.

March 29, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I bet you would have caught "From one of Sweden's most successful defense lawyer(sic)," though.

If Dr. Laura insists that people address her, the forced informality of an honorfic paired with a given name is yet another creepy element.

In conclusion, if Declan Burke's second book is translated into Swedish, its title should be The Big Ö, not The Big Ø.

March 29, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, I think Dutch places the adjective first, come to think of it. It must be that the non-English languages to which I was exposed when my neurons and synapses were working their way into shape -- French and Hebrew -- generally do the reverse.

March 29, 2013  

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