Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Editor is manuscript as Butcher is to...cow?

Some of you may recall that I have a pretty awesome doppelganger: "the other Molly O'Neill" is a former NY Times food editor, the author of her own cookbooks and a memoir, a food writer extraordinaire, a great public speaker (as I discovered last year), and the sister of a former NY Yankee.

I have a Google alert set on "our" name. Sometimes it brings me news of myself, but more often, it brings me news of my doppelganger (or occasionally, of another Molly O'Neill, who works for the Environmental Protection Agency, but I'm pretty sure that food writer Molly O'Neill and I have the cooler jobs of the three of us). In any case, today, my google alert brought me this quote from "the other Molly O'Neill," from a 1998 article entitled "The Late, Great, Fine Art of Butchering."

"The intensive training of long apprenticeships (up to 10 years) is still the best way to become an expert or, as butchers call one other, a ''master.'' Masters have the expertise, for example, to distinguish the texture, fat content and freshness of any cut of meat just by touching it. In times past, a butcher became a master when another master recognized his skill."

And I'm struck by this quote because, hmmm, that process sounds terribly familiar. Editing is without question an apprenticeship career of much the same ilk, where you learn so much at the hands of the master editors who are your bosses--though happily, it's (usually!) a decidedly less bloody career. (I know, I know, it's almost impossible to resist all the editor/butchering jokes, isn't it? Even for me!) Truth be told, of course, I'm not sure I know a single editor who would ever quite feel comfortable declaring that they'd graduated to "master editor," but they'd be proud to tell you about a few of the master writers they'd found along the way! That said, if, ten years from now I could have the expertise to distinguish what a manuscript would be like, merely by touching it, how great would THAT be?

All in all, it's a fascinating--if unexpected--comparison to ponder. Hurrah for random Google alerts!


  1. Molly, this is absolutely hysterical!

  2. I love love love Google alerts. I almost wish I had a more common name so that other people's lives could entertain me!