Bookproject update 005: Year Two
It is long, long past time that I give you at least a quick update on my second book, The City Is Here For You To Use, which I’d originally planned to have shipped as of the beginning of the year.
I should first admit that I basically killed any prospect for useful work on the book during the second half of 2008 by signing onto this job, what with the international relocation, the (ahem) “onboarding,” and everything else thusly entrained. (Onboarding? Is that anything like waterboarding?) In retrospect, it was foolish to believe that I could manage all that – or that, routine job-related travel, the usual speaking commitments and a Nordic winter – and still have any psychic bandwidth to devote to anything else, let alone anything so meaningful to me and so important to get right.
Now that we’re a little more settled in, though, and the days are however incrementally getting longer again, I’ve been able to devote reasonable amounts of time and attention to research, reflection and writing. Word count stands at 95,379 as of this morning; even in ever-useful Scrivener, this is far more than it’s practical or wise to edit on-screen, and the result has been my recourse to paper, Scotch tape and the dining-room table. Generously line-spaced for editing, the document comes to some 320 pages of hardcopy marked up in ink, sorted into conceptual chunks (premature to think of them as “sections” or “chapters”) and tucked into actual, physical file folders. I’ll upload pictures to Flickr at some point soon: they make quite a stack, and there’s something deeply pleasurable about seeing these concrete, analogue indices of progress strewn across the tabletop.
I’ve also left a PDF containing about 94,850 of those words with intrepid Erin Kissane in New York. Erin’s the first editor I’ve been fully comfortable with since a guy named Joe Levy at SPIN, about a million years ago. Working with Joe taught me that a good editor brings a discrete but vitally complementary set of skills to the production of writing, and that in the hands of someone possessed of these same, even my workmanlike prose can be buffed into something diamondhard and gleaming. Erin has them in spades, and unerring taste besides. I’m delighted, and flattered, that she’s taken on this project.
As I may have mentioned in the past, the really difficult thing about this book for me hasn’t been keeping on top of all the emergent manifestations of urban informatics, or even developing a satisfying spinal argument about their significance, it’s hitting just the right note as regards voice: factually correct, technically authoritative where necessary, but always and ever generous, accessible and humane. What you can expect is that we’ll go through a number of iterations on the way to completion, with expansion followed by contraction as the argument is successively bolstered, clarified, sharpened, and pruned of distractions. I’m especially concerned that my darlings get well and truly killed this time, most particularly the in-jokes and shibboleths I have a weakness for and of which I’ve been so indulgent in the past. A few rounds of this – very much dependent on Erin’s availability – and I’ll be closer to having an actual ship date for you.
With regard to design and production, Nurri and I have collected various inspirations both proper to and outside the universe of book design, and begun to gather them alongside the moodboard images which furnish us with the balance of our motivation. Our intention is that the book look much like it reads, that it operate in the visual register with the same warmth and simplicity I’m struggling to invest the text with.
We’re also considering this the first of our efforts under the Do Projects aegis: Do 801. The meaning of this, I hope, will become clear in time. For the moment I wish to thank you once again, and from the very soles of my feet, for your interest, your enthusiasm, and your faith in this project. I trust the final result will reward your patience.