Hazel McHaffie


Who cares in Marrakech?

Uh-oh. It was the most hyped book launch in ages. It was described as ’the novel of the century’ by one critic. It became an instant best-seller.

Yep, I’m talking about Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Freedom. The long-awaited sequel to the acclaimed literary sensation of 2001, The Corrections. You’ve probably heard about it even if you haven’t read it. Like me.

But … oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. There’s Mr Franzen himself, idly flicking through this treasure ahead of a book-reading and signing at London’s Southbank Centre, when he spots … a mistake … and another … and another … Apparently the typesetter sent an earlier uncorrected version of the book from their computer. Phew, don’t I sympathise! How many times have I personally checked and re-checked versions just to be sure I’ve got the latest one.

Anyway, a jolly embarrassed HarperCollins is licking its wounds and doing a massive pulping job, and promising to exchange faulty copies for the corrected version. And we’re talking BIG numbers. One source said there are 80,000 substandard hardbacks in circulation. 80,000!! Somewhere I guess there’s an unemployed typesetter seeking anonymity.

I so much feel for the author though – in spite of the extra publicity. I still remember sneaking a peek inside my own very first novel before a book signing at a conference (where it arrived hot off the press) and finding errors. Errors the publisher had solemnly promised would be automatically rectified in the final draft. Errors not of my making but ones which had crept in during conversion from one format to another during the publishing process. But errors nonetheless that still felt to me like personal failures in a spelling test! It’s a sickening feeling.

So nobody comes out of this well.

News of the Franzen cock-up broke a couple of weeks ago, I know, but I’ve been in Marrakech so couldn’t slip it neatly into my blog when it hit the papers. Not in a country where donkeys and camels cause traffic jams; where palm trees grow like dandelions but are revered like honoured guests; where the call to prayer takes precedence over opening the market stall; where there’s an ancient remedy for every disease of body and mind; where the indigenous Berbers lived to more than a hundred years of age up in the Atlas Mountains until technology arrived and the problems of modern societies corrupted them. Why would anyone even notice a reversed comma or a misplaced capital letter or an infelicitous subjunctive clause, never mind care? I’ll give you a sneaky peek.camelshorses and carts  jostle with modrn carshorses and carts  jostle with modrn carsThe famous souksColourful market stallsFab architectureornate ceiling

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