It's interesting that you should mention the role of the editor and relate it to the notion of opening up conversation. Given the importance of the editor in today's production chain, it's remarkable that (s)he remains a shadow, comfortably kept at arm's length, lurking in the dark of preproduction. Conveniently confined to the realm of the apocryphal, (s)he only becomes relevant in hindsight, mostly in a apologetic logic c.q. rhetoric of resentment ('yeah, I know, but the editor made me do it'). Double perversion and displacement of responsibility: the author can't help it, being but a pawn in a corporate scheme that both eludes and debases him; the editor can't help it, being bereft of the visibility necessary to be called upon. <em>Marriage de raison and co-dependency at once and neatly arranged.
Of course there's those rare examples of the editor being forced into play, strong-armed to speak up. Michael Pietsch had to do so, be it prompted by David Foster Wallace's demise. The flaw of The Pale King isn't that it lures the reader into a game of hermeneutical squinting, trying to extract David's Waldo from the background of Pietschean collage. The flaw is a challenge, a truly posthumous one at that: it confronts the reader to come to terms with the death of DFW as an auctorial original.
The traditional editor generally pales in comparison to the music producer. One could argue that the reverence for the Spectors and Rubins are a byproduct of the claim for fame associated with music, and thus a mere spin-off of cultural contingency. But still: they can be called upon, which is not to be made light of.
I like the fact that you drag the editor into the limelight. It somehow seems in line with the ethics of CE, a B.
So the Qs here would basically be: could you elaborate on the role of the editor? To what extent do you consider him/her/it a legitimate partner in authorship? What would be his/her/its role in proclaiming the death of the author Chris Eaton - or the author at large? Where does his/her/its accomplicity lie?
This is going to be a much harder one than the last. I'm apt to ask to skip it, because I think I'm still looking for "my editor"; looking, possibly misguidedly, for someone who will be extremely harsh with me; maybe because I’m some kind of masochist. Jay Millar (who is both my publisher and editor in this case, although I don’t think he typically does both) was, I would say, exceptionally gentle with me. I had already done a few edits on my own and he felt the tension was already there, that he didn’t need to do a lot of restructuring or deleting. Aside from the example I listed above, I’d say his guidance was more on a cellular level (is that really the right metaphor I want here?), where he felt maybe that a sentence was too long and complicated and wanted me to make sure I wanted it that way. And I think there’s a point where a writer can be too close to their own book, especially when they get really long, and an editor can engage them in a conversation about what the goal of the book is and whether or not certain parts belong or are up to par with other parts and can possibly take a good manuscript and turn it into something it couldn’t be on its own.
Also, I’ve had three editors for my books (the other two being the sound- and concrete poet Stephen Cain and the novelist Emily Schultz) and each of these people has been immensely supportive of me as an artist, which is possibly the most important thing someone can do for a neurotic like myself. Every book that is published has someone like this, someone who believes, someone with patience, and they deserve that credit. I guess I sometimes just liken it to my experience with music, where I can write a nice song, but could never have taken it to the places I did without the skills of the musicians I played with or the engineers who recorded us. Can someone turn up the awesome here?