… a thought making crooked all that is straight.

Pagen prufreeder wontid …

I know that most pagan writers are self-published or working through small publishing houses where budgets are tight. But why, oh why, oh why can’t they at least run a basic spell-check if they can’t afford a decent proofreader? Are people so arrogant that they don’t get a friend or colleague to read through their manuscript before going to print? Or are their friends so sycophantic, all they can say is marvellous, rather than, bloody hell, where did you learn to speak English?

I have read pagan books by Worthies in the past and really struggled with their phraseology and ‘typos’. This is a trend in publishing in general; the standard of proofreading has slipped considerably since the 1960s. Am I betraying an academic snobbery by thinking that people who are published should take pride in every aspect of their writing? I know when I worked at the bookshop that the same slovenliness applies to mainstream writers too. I received a proof copy of a novel by someone like Maeve Binchy or Patricia Cornwell (a woman writer at any rate). This proof had not passed the editorial bench yet, so I was reading it in the raw. I only managed 2 pages before throwing it on the pile to be pulped because the standard of writing was appalling. This writer MAY have come up with the original idea, but based on the writing, the future kudos for her work most definitely lay with the editor…

Last night I cracked open a new tome on witchcraft. I’m not going to mention names because his writing is typical of many. Apart from the spelling mistakes … and I really don’t believe they were all slips of the finger on a keyboard … his phraseology was so obtuse that I had to virtually do the ‘magic eye’ trick by unfocusing my brain and allowing my subconscious to filter the main words in a sentence and try and make sense of it that way. This book is a modern-day grimoire. It is a book leading the reader into some very dark aspects of magick. The writer warns the reader that he takes no responsibility for what happens to the practitioner working with this book. If he is so bloody concerned, shouldn’t he have at least done a spell check on his demon names and invocations??!! At best nothing will happen, at worst the practitioner will summon a demon as pernickety as me who will want to know why his sigil is wrong and his name mispronounced!! I am (as usual) writing with tongue firmly in cheek, BUT this is a serious point.

I have often felt compelled to offer my proofreading services to certain pagan authors. I am a qualified proofreader, and I would even do it for free as a matter of principle to raise the dross standard of pagan writing. How on earth can we expect to be taken seriously, if our literature – the very books we base so much of our learning on – is full of errors that even a mundane-minded 15-year old would spot. If writers are so lackadaisical as to allow basic grammar and spelling mistakes to pass (bear in mind, their readers are paying for this substandard shite), then I start to question the seriousness of their research and the magickal gnosis that they say they are imparting to me.

I identified one basic error of Egyptian mythology within the first couple of pages of the book I started last night, and now I feel that all the other information I am being fed, I will have to strain through a filter of research and double-checking. I am not a knowledgeable person, so if I can spot an error, how many others are stuck between the pages. And this is NOT about deliberate blinds, smoke-and-shadows, hiding the true gnosis from the initiated; this is about slovenly research and poor writing skills.

And don’t even get me started on books that contain statements like,
“[The author] … is (like me [the person writing the preface]) constantly in the company of beautiful women as any true Magister should be. What more proof of power need there be? Genuine power is sexy. Crap magicians do not get laid.”
Oh, puhleease pass me a barf-bag. Really.
© starofseshat 2008

9 responses

  1. The Green Witch

    Is that the book I picked up and read the introduction to last evening? It was really difficult to find a word that was correctly spelled!!

    We’ve talked before about the importance of communicating these difficult and dangerous concepts clearly and accurately. I’m surprised more authors don’t find it necessary to do even a cursory check over their work.

    And the last paragrpah of your post tells me everything I need to know about the level of attainment of the preface writer, at least. Fool!

    November 13, 2008 at 10:47 am

  2. starofseshat

    Yup, twas the very book. I will plow on through because I am very interested in the subject matter. This man speaks far better than he writes, and as I said, I am very concerned by the errors I have already found … makes me doubt everything else I am supposedly learning from him 😦

    I agree that true power is an aphrodisiac. And it may indeed be the case that power attracts (one wonders if these ‘beautiful women’ are intelligent and powerful in their own right – personally I would want to be with someone who at the very least meets my level of power, and I would not respect a man for playing “the magician with the big wand” with women who are only spreading their legs because they are dazzled) … and it doesn’t stop said powerful person being a wanker for bragging about it!

    Yes, indeedy – Seshat is munching balls again 🙂

    November 13, 2008 at 10:54 am

  3. I suspect which book (and author) you are talking about. As a teacher, I’m a bit of a linguistic dominatrix – do it right or I’ll beat it into you. I can see the point of dumbing down to cater to a dumber audience, but there’s no excuse for not making sense.

    November 13, 2008 at 11:04 am

  4. starofseshat

    Welcome Assentia!
    Well, my description, to be honest, could apply to numerous books I have read in the last couple of years.
    A linguistic dominatrix? I like the sound of that 🙂
    This particular book is absolutely not appropriate for a dumb audience and I think it is potentially a liability to be so obtuse…
    Maybe, maybe the author will surprise me with blinding insight and I will be kicking myself by the end of the book, I hope so. Maybe I am being too harsh?? I am reminded of the ole “put your money where you mouth is” quip: it’s easy enough for me to stand at the sidelines and criticise … although a spell-check in Word doesn’t cost anything …

    November 13, 2008 at 11:09 am

  5. I’ve found so many books with little things wrong in them. But, then again, it can be difficult to find the “right” information when cultures have been dead for centuries and some information is open to interpretation.

    It is frustrating when authors can’t even get their own hoopla correct, eh? At least attempt to speak the language you’re writing in.

    I know how you feel, Assentia. Working as a teacher for a while, it was frustrating watching 12-14 year olds not only get simplistic vocabulary terribly wrong, but then not give a rat’s ass.

    November 13, 2008 at 6:04 pm

  6. starofseshat

    Oh, the books I’m talking about had mistakes every other sentence, and grammar so obtuse it was verging on incomprehensible.
    And I wouldn’t say that my education has been beyond the norm, so I am always disappointed when I recognise that a writer is talking the preverbial … I always expect to learn from books, not sit there with pencil and correct! LOL
    Good job I’M not a teacher, I think my students would hate me! 😮

    November 13, 2008 at 6:09 pm

  7. cymraes

    Hear Hear Seshat!!!

    I too find it irritating when books I’ve paid good money for contain spelling mistakes, and bad grammar!

    I for one would be lost with out my spell checker, but always take the time to ‘read through’ just incase.

    My pet hate at the moment is then, rather than than! Why oh why, do authors do this? It’s beyond me! But then I am a pedantic star sign, picking faults is bordering on the perfect… ;o)

    November 17, 2008 at 6:51 pm

  8. starofseshat

    It’s one of the downsides of being a translator and proofreader, that I can’t read anything without noticing the errors … and I don’t have the excuse of it being a trait of my star sign! 🙂

    Perfect is as perfect does: when a magician (for example … just an example, not thinking of anyone in particular …) writes a book and tries to convey the level of discipline and commitment needed for his ‘arte’ [sic], then surely his message loses weight if he has neither the discipline nor commitment to do a little spell check. I would think that discipline for magick would entail a certain thread of discipline to run through every area of life (at least as a goal, if not in actuality).

    Oh, I could ramble on with other pet hates in this respect – trust me, I’m in the mood!! But it would not be productive, so I shall not.

    November 17, 2008 at 8:22 pm

  9. Pingback: We are all messangers of the gids … « Seshat’s Voice

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