September 10, 2011

Faking it.

I expressed last week during a dinner party that -although excited about editing for the first time- I was extremely nervous I would be faking it all the way through. 

Megan, Versal head honcho, smiled at me and said that 'we all did' at some point. She assured me that I would feel better once I got a chance to speak with Robert, the head fiction editor. 

I had spoken to Robert once before through Skype about the editing process. During that chat we set a date to talk about 'literature' (quotes my own) some weeks ahead. That was meant to be about a month ago. The follow up meeting was postponed several times, Robert being in the midst of PhD exams and my needing to postpone our chat due to work overload. 

Although I knew we'd get to it at some point, this did little to change the overwhelming feeling that I felt stuck in some strange limbo: I knew I was to be an editor, but I did not know what was expected of me or how I would accomplish the job. So, this anxiety led me to mention my potential fake-ness to Megan. 

Robert got in touch on Monday, once his exams were complete. Since Robert did not know my experience or analytical 'skills' (again, those quotes are my own) he chose two pieces from Versal 9 to look over: A Year and Demonstrum.

I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. 

We chatted a bit about my current travels in the states before moving on to business. 

Robert asked several provacative and open ended questions to determine how I approached a piece. If you haven't read A Year or Demonstrum, the pieces do a good job of negating anything that is put forward. They leave the reader unhinged, caught in the grips of vertigo. Some times I felt I knew the answer, or a good enough interpretation and answered quickly. Sometimes I was left without an answer. Either way I felt excited, like I might be doing OK.

Then Robert asked me whether I would choose the two pieces for a second read. With confidence I said yes. He asked why. I said meekly, I don't know. 

I was caught. There it was. A fake. A FAKE! 

But Robert smiled (we had video chat on). He went on to explain that –sometimes–a certain amount of ambiguity exists in the choosing process. And that's OK. Sometimes the fiction we appreciate most around here at Versal are the ambiguous fictions, the ones that tranverse borders. The mysterious ones that use tropes as tools, that negate our notions of what fiction should be, that shoots all we know about writing out of a cannon into a million different pieces and puts it together with a TA-DA. The ones that you get a gut feeling about. 

At the moment I'm reading a book called complications by Atul Gawande, given to me by a friend. You might know it: one of those New York Times Bestseller works that end up on the coffee table as a talking point. But this one is different. It is a short book about the trials and tribulations of being a modern surgean; essentially about the complications arising from being a human performing duties in a profession where robot like precision and miracles are expected. 

A large portion of the book talks about learning on the job. That surgeons who go through years and years of training are eventually untethered and have to learn a great deal about cutting into live human beings. A scary thought. 

Surgeons faking on the job. Learning as they go. Cutting up things that were never meant to be cut. 

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