The Point of Publishing

The Anonymity of the Centre

Category: making it up

Total book

All the series and sets never come together in one place. Language determines that most often, but also the where and when, what’s being said and unsaid, values of cannon and collection. Divisions of respectability and recall affect even the most complex archival ambition so that the word choices made at the very beginning determine the availability and influence of all collections and their cataloguers. The proliferation of data scanned and stored discovers little and dissimulates most. If there is no honest way to look at what hides in full view, then texts, words, crikey!

Turn it up

And so it goes on, with chapter after chapter until part or total length is reached. It is now a work, a tome, a volume battling not to be ignored, perhaps a member of a set or series, a filling of a shelf, a cradling in the hand, a mover of eyes from side to side, a spender of spirit and sensibility, a grouper of ideas and ideologies, a bringer of profit or loss, a parcel of rotting paper leaves, a lighter of fires, a wiper, a soaker up, a knapsack treasure, a hidey-hole horror, a life-saver, a carrier of despair or desperation, black-on-white courage and phantom-like fears, dream or nightmare: one word after another makes this thing, and what tools go into the making of the text, what storms and becalmings can result, mean it’s a process worth taking seriously.

Calling time

Eventually there is a need to make a change in topic or direction, to open a new chapter. This means closing the container that holds one bunch of words, putting it to one side and setting off to fill a new box with different bits of text. It’s funny that this new emptiness is roughly the same size as the last, no need to change the idiom that much. There’s a comfort in the new number, sometimes a title, summary or list of keywords, but best of all is the nice area of white space at the top of the page and a very big initial letter.

Internal divisions

After a number of paragraphs there is sometimes extra space or a line of little stars, prompting a breather, a moment’s pause to refresh the eyes or consider a train of thought or sequence of actions. Some cannot resist the prompt to signpost these sections with headings and explanations. The gaps are visible on the page but not always on the screen, where a hiatus may encourage frantic scrolling or abandonment of reading altogether. A break within a text can be an excuse to stop reading for the night or at other dark times.

Parallels

Like lengths of rope, intertwined or fastened end-to-end, sentences support or extend each other.   Contemporary processes and post-philosophies limit restrictions on interchangeability and flux, equalizing emphasis, flattening textures, becalming currents and allowing surfaces to grow fœtid and opaque. Sets of sentences, thrown like sticks or stones, can reverberate in the flatness, but have no sequence and little consequence.

Doing time together

Sentences expose the tense undersides: the viscera that may be dislocated or melded by the surface lexical patterns. Tone and time and modal angularity determine how a sentence reads, how it relates to others in the vicinity, and how constructed discourse laces up. Proposing discrete meanings for single sentences validates frenzied metaphysical cries or epitaphs, brings on the death of sense and a language of faith not reason.

 

Between two points

The hook, the handle, the place that indicates centre of gravity can be hidden in the tumbling of even the simplest space between two points. As words and groups of words gather with pretended purpose, there is not so much a commonality of meaning as the neat or haphazard arrangement of raw and cooked dishes in a semantic picnic basket. It isn’t always easy to decide between good looks and good taste, wholesomeness and hedonism.

Recollection of the phrase

When words are gathered in short phrases, obedient or insubordinate clauses, the time is ripe for bits and bobs to start their interaction on the page. Together they may be ordered as arguments or, more likely, burdened with unpredictable and unintended ironies. Some phrasings reverberate with diplomacy and deliberation, and mean only what is later discovered with forensic scrutiny and tranquil hindsight.

Letter clutter

In accentuated cafés and discothèques there is an occasional rôle for a more encyclopædic breadth, but, in the main, written English works with just 26 letters, and now, when text is prepared for publication, there’s seldom support for typographic ligatures. All those words – so stiffly made from so few letters – squat as if on sorting racks and monochromic grids. Possibilities of further playfulness and curlicue are ignored, forgotten or never even known.

Togetherness

At close quarters some words have a heartfelt affinity, others hyphenate self-consciously, and some are grouped hook, line and sinker. Words have tendencies to gather, interrelate and revel in their jointly generated powers, as they build phrase and sentence to engender comprehension and creativity. The order can be changed: composition can balance stresses, disturb preconceptions, make meaning out of contrasts and conflicts, dictate the placing of phrases in crowded texts.