Sunday 31 January 2010

"Harold's Horror" - actually, mine

Today I'm doing something a bit different (I wish that word were spelled 'diggerent' - it would save me such a lot of backspacing) - proofreading the manuscript of a book for someone. He's a published New Age-y type writer, but in this book he's trying a diggerent approach, conveying his philosophy through a story.

Unfortunately - or actually, probably not - so far (Ch 6) he seems to have got so caught up in his Boy's Own Adventure set in the Amazonian jungle that the getting-in-touch-with-your-feelings aspect is scarcely mentioned. He's having much more fun with betrayal by the faithful Indian guide, having to kill an injured mule, a dramatic river crossing and the interpretation of the ancient treasure map. It's horrendous twaddle, and the only way I can get through it is to laugh at it and be really firm with myself about only fixing the spelling (Smith and Western revolver, due drops) and punctuation, and not to edit the writing ("You 'betcha'," Jonathan uttered) - he hired me as a proofreader only, after all.

At least I have some connection with the Amazon side of it, having spent three nights up the Tambopata in Peru. It was a bit unnerving, wildlife-wise, but felt wonderfully intrepid, even though it was well-trodden tourist territory. (The girls I met in a Lima cafe who'd just got back from three weeks with a shaman in the real jungle, taking a powerful hallucinogenic drug for spiritual enlightenment were the real adventurers, but that's another story - one that I wish I were proofreading instead of this bilge.) (The following is my bilge.)

>>> The business end of the snake was already inside a hole in the bank but enough of it was still sliding across the path, shiny black in the torchlight, to make me to wonder why I had thought a few days in Peruvian Amazonia would be a good idea. I hadn’t yet even reached the jungle lodge where, I had been told, my room had only three walls: the fourth left open to enable what the brochure enthusiastically termed ‘interaction’ between me and the environment. Two fat striped flying insects had started interacting with me within moments of my stepping onto the tarmac at Puerto Maldonado airport, something unseen had leapt out of the water and touched my hand as it rested on the gunwales of the longboat that had taken us three hours up the wide brown Tambopata River, I had just stepped over a tree root being used as an overpass by a stream of giant ants, and now there was a snake. “Welcome to Refugio Amazonas,” said Luis without irony...

[Pub. The Listener 11/6/11]

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