Saturday 28 March 2020

One Million Words

Ink and colour drawing of Philadelphia bookseller George JC Grasberger pushing a wheelbarrow of books, 1930s
Is your Pandemic Reading organised?

Have you wondered yet, Dear Reader, how much reading you will get done during the Great Pandemic? While one vast chunk of humanity fully intend to be gainfully employed in catching up on the telly in their pyjamas, (a noble pastime of which we, too, shall be dipping into), there is another vast chunk endeavouring to tackle those book piles we all seem to have about the place. If we were to play Guess-The-Word-Count of the barrow o' books our satisfied gent above is carting*, would you be surprised if I was to tell you, with Authority, that there is well over one million words therein?

It is not because I have an extraordinary talent for counting marbles in a jar, it is because I know how many words I have read that were penned from my husband's own hand. Mr P., you see, once wrote a book and I volunteered as his proof-reader. His scholarly work stands at around 130,000 words, including the bibliography and index. In order to smooth out all the wrinkles along its gestational evolution, I read each chapter around ten times. While a degree in Pure Mathematics was not actually required for such arithmetical guesstimating, I can confidently say I've read one million of my husband's words. And, may I say, did deserve the greatly appreciated dedication in its front matter!

* Or karotsi-ing, if you prefer the Greek.

Image credit: Library of Congress


  1. Having been a professional proofreader, I must say you more than earned your dedication.
    Reading is my favorite sport. Sadly, like a runner whose knees give out, my eyes are nearly kaput. (One opthalmologist optimistically told me I wouldn't go blind as in everything going black but would "just become infinitely more near-sighted.")
    Just started My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. LOVE IT.

  2. ToF: Ah, you can appreciate. The things we do for love! I was rather fortunate that the subject matter was, in the main, rather interesting, but proofreading an extensive index is something akin to cross-referencing endless shopping lists and hard for even fully-functional eyes to not glaze over. So sorry to hear of your sporting injury. Keep your opthalmologist in your inner circle always! ... My book reviews around these pages are pitifully neglected but I did lately read Levi's "Christ Stopped at Eboli". Thank you sooo much for the recommendation!

  3. Oh my goodness, you deserved the wife of the year award for that. One million words sounds like a lot but I'm sure I've read more than that in my lifetime. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I have to work from home so I don't have too much extra time on my hands.

  4. As I was always told, "one can never be lonely as long as one has a book to read." I always passed that along to children and young people who moaned about being bored. Nowadays of course with that dastardly phone always in their hands I suppose those words do not mean much.........sadly!

    I've just finished 'The Overstory' by Richard Powers - long, powerful, awesome, scary if you, like me, are concerned for the future of trees. Now reading Tom Fort's 'The Village News - The truth behind England's rural idyll" - an amazing history. Also at hand, 'Life in The Garden' by Penelope Lively - lovely book and necessary NOW as my life truly is in the garden - and I'm thankful I have one!ll

    I've watched several movies lately, favorite being 'The Bookshop' with the gentle Emily Mortimer and the ever charming Bill Nighy and a great cast. Anyone loving books will enjoy this.

    Stay well and safe.

  5. Love your eclectic posts... the art, photos, words... simply lovely, and fun, and thought provoking! I did not know you were a proofreader for your husband's work... I do know how hard a job that is, however. The Time Seekers came in at ~150,000 words and I worked with one editor on the proofing. It was actually the worst part of the writing process, very stressful w/ concern that even w/ two sets of eyes the OBVIOUS would be missed. Nightmares abounded : ) Thank you, again, so much for your marvelous review... meant so much to me!! And yes, this IS the perfect time to escape into BOOKS of all stripes and types!!! Stay well!! Debbie
    PS I hope this comment is accepted, find the robot test very intimidating : )

  6. Loree: Hahah!! Yes, a million words does sound like an absurd amount but it isn't, really. We all consume many multiples of that amount annually ... That you are still busy at home is reassuring and one might think that not needing to commute would give you opportunity for reading a few more pages but I guess the principle of work expanding to fill the time doth apply?

    Mary: So true! Yet there are a handful of children for whom books are revered, thankfully, but for the rest, we may need to have a la! catastrophe! switching off of the interwebs and telephones for a little while for books to get their time in the sun. But I do pity anyone who Marie Kondo-ed their home libraries. Just yesterday I snapped up six tantalising books (including a Folio Society "Rumpole"!) from our apartment building's book exchange - thank you, anonymous neighbour! ... I've not read your books but I do love a good memoir, so the Penelope Lively has gone onto the list. Gardens are lived vicariously by me, these days, but at least we enjoy a leafy aspect through the windows. And who doesn't love Bill Nighy? Must find this film, thank you!

    Debbie: Thank you! Academic publishers do not typically provide editorial assistance, so it was a case of needs must. His book is a layman's edition of his PhD so I was the sounding block for its adaptation. It did provide for some, ahem, tricky times when there was, shall we say, a difference of opinion between us! Oh, I must get onto your Amazon review - thank you for reminding me. Well done for braving the robot!

  7. My daughter once typed, edited, and proofread, a book for a friend of hers; it nearly drove her crazy, and she didn't even get a mention.

  8. Cro: An acknowledgement or a dedication in a book is such a small detail but both are very much appreciated public gestures. Under any circumstance it's quite an undertaking but at least I didn't have to type Mr P.'s as well!

    I will finish today a small book on ITALY and have ordered another book about COUNTRY HOMEs IN ENGLAND which will be MORE VISUAL to stimulate me to CLEAN!!!!

  10. Contessa: No, you will not find it in your library. His book is a history and analysis of an aspect of Law, which sounds very dry but with my, ahem, input is rather a bit more readable than first glance! ... After having a slow start in this country, we've woken up to almost martial law today! Lots of lovely reading ahead of us. xx


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