Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Note on the text

No time or wherewithal to write an elaborate post here, but if you are my friend on Facebook you have heard me rhapsodizing about the unpublished novel by Margaret Kilik that came into my possession last year and that will be published by Trinity University Press. I've been finalizing the text of the novel itself this past week. It's a reader's edition, not a scholarly edition of any kind, and I haven't gone deep into textual criticism or anything like that, but I did enjoy writing the "Note on the Text" just now (I've always wanted to write one!) and thought I would share that draft here. The novel is called The Duchess of Angus, and I will be pressing it into your hands next year for sure!...

Note on the text

When I first realized what I had on my hands, I envisioned a scholarly edition of the novel that would follow Margaret Kilik’s typescript in all of its particulars. At least part of the appeal of an unpublished manuscript like The Duchess of Angus derives from its idiosyncrasies: the misspellings, oddities of punctuation and quirks of grammar that have not yet been eliminated by the normalizing work of a copy-editor. I soon realized, though, that in order to produce a true reader’s edition, I would need to correct errors of various kinds. My guideline was to stick as closely as possible to the words that Kilik wrote, but to make small changes anywhere that would ease the reader’s passage through the sentence or paragraph.

Kilik’s use of commas was especially scattershot, and I have frequently re-punctuated sentences and stretches of dialogue for clarity and ease of comprehension. That said, I hope the text retains the original sense of comma use being relatively light in order to convey the flat affect of Jane Davis’s narration. I have sometimes added or moved paragraph breaks, but I have retained the frequent ellipses, which Margaret used for emphasis and to indicate a pause especially in speech, except in a small number of cases where the substitution of a comma for the ellipsis made the text much clearer to the eye.

Kilik’s spelling is somewhat unreliable. I enjoyed but eliminated inate, medeocrity, dueces, droziness, stiffled, candolabra, scimmed, decipation, momentoes, whispy, languous. Where names are given in more than one variant, I have made the text consistent by preferring either the first or the more correct-seeming spelling on a case-by-case basis. There are some patterns of misspelling that give a distinctive flavor to the manuscript that this edition no longer retains. Words are given a double letter in the place of a single or vice versa: mentionned, welcommed, poisonned, stationned, accoustics, posessed, Channel No. 5. “Ea” is often preferred incorrectly over “ee”: bear for bare, sleak for sleek, leach for leech, peak for peek, healer for heeler (in the expression “ward heeler”) Kilik adds an extra “e” to adjectives ending in “y”: shiney, smokey, shakey, boney, lacey. She also often uses two words where one is standard usage (ash trays, hitch hike, etc.), and I have given the standard version in all of those cases.

In a handful of places where the misspelling introduces an appealing malapropism of sorts, I have given the manuscript reading in square brackets: so, for instance, I have corrected the manuscript reading “desolute” to “desolate” but provided the original as well, because of how it echoes the term “dissolute” (which conceivably could have been the word the novelist intended to use, though context strongly supports my editorial choice). In another instance, the manuscript reads “unatoned”; I have corrected it to “unattuned,” but didn’t want wholly to efface the hint of sin and redemption that enters by way of the misspelling.

Several of the manuscript’s preferences seem to me sufficiently intrinsic to the novel’s style that I have not forced them into line with the conventional rules. Two things stand out in particular: the use of sentence fragments for emphasis; the inconsistent and shifting use of past and presence tense in some of the narrator’s ruminations. Neither have I tried to smooth over what I see as one of the book’s very few moments of awkward handling, the flashback scene where we revisit the initial encounter between Jess and Mira.

My heartfelt thanks to Mimi Lipson, who typed up the manuscript into a clean Word file. The original manuscript will be deposited in Special Collections at Coates Library, Trinity University in San Antonio, as will the two other unpublished play scripts that came into my possession at the same time the novel did. One of them represents a reworking of the material included in The Duchess of Angus and will be of special interest to readers of the novel. We also intend to create a digital edition of the novel manuscript that can be easily viewed online.

Jenny Davidson
Columbia University
June 18, 2019