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V9 2006 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE




The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 21, May 21, 2006, Article 14

WHAT DRIVES A NUMISMATIC WRITER?

Dick Johnson writes: "I read a review this morning about a book
recently published by Knopf -- "A Writer's Life" by Gay Talese.
Some quotations by the famed writer impressed me.

It's not a biography, apparently, it tells instead why the author
is driven to write. Talese was asked to explain one of his comments.
"You wrote that, for you, producing prose is like a patient passing
a kidney stone. Why is writing so painful?"

He answered, in effect, that he is dissatisfied with what he does,
that he does it over and over again and again. He attempts to attain
a higher level of workmanship by doing it a second, or third time,
or more times, that made him one of the great rewriters, if not
writer, of the time.

That's sure true. I have rewritten some of my things as many as
forty times. Even these brief paragraphs for E-Sylum I reread six
or eight times. Often changing something to improve the flow of
words, to correct a fact or to catch some damn misspelling.

Why so driven? I think it's a respect for the reader. In numismatics
it's a respect for the collector. Numismatic authors want to provide
the information they have learned to other collectors. But for
goodness sake, make it easy to read, to understand. Too much
numismatic writing is pretty dry.

I think the greatest sin in numismatics, however, is rushing into
print too fast. One of my favorite books is "The Art and Craft of
Coinmaking" by Denis Cooper. In corresponding with the author I
learned he was dissatisfied with the published book because it was
rushed into print in time for a coin convention. It's full of
errors and even part of the manuscript was omitted he tells me.

Numismatic books, like the objects themselves, are long-lasting,
often still in use decades later. Authors, take your time. Do a
workmanlike job. Like Talese does, REWRITE."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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