The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago is a 2009 book on editing by Carol Fisher Saller, a senior manuscript editor at the University of Chicago Press. The book’s subtitle is How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleagues, and Yourself, and this is Saller’s primary focus.
The Subversive Copy Editor is divided into two sections: one on dealing with the writer and working on behalf of the reader, and the other on working with colleagues. Saller’s advice, generally, is to take a common-sense and courteous approach to dealing with anyone and everyone. Her insight into the dynamics of the copy editor’s working relationships is probably the most valuable part of the book.
Much of the book seems geared toward new editors, and there’s a lot of basic, getting-started information here. On the whole, though, it isn’t very subversive – unless remaining calm and not killing yourself stressing out over minutiae is subversive.
Saller’s writing style is light and clever, and it makes this book generally enjoyable to read. Saller is also quick to discuss her own mistakes, which certainly helps the reader relate. Even if much of what she has to say isn’t profound, it’s nice to hear it from somebody who’s experienced and credible.
This is quite a short book, but the pace feels a little too leisurely at times, particularly as Saller seems to try to hit a number of disparate targets. Not everything in the book is for every copy editor, and few if any editors will find every chapter relevant or helpful. That said, though, most any editor can get something out of this book.
There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking here, but if you’re looking for an easy, common-sense book on copy editing, The Subversive Copy Editor is a winner.