Saturday, January 9, 2010

Proofreading, part 25

I also have to deal with a certain amount of, let's say, cognitive dissonance. In my travels, I've given scrolls (usually megillot) I've written to various traditional-Orthodox types, and the response is, quite often, “Goodness me, this is very nice, very nice indeed..." until they discover that I wrote it. Then their opinion abruptly changes; suddenly it is not aesthetically pleasing, the writing is not nice, and so forth. This is a) obvious and b) tiresome.

A story by way of example. One of my proofreading go-betweens also sells Torahs, and once I collected a scroll from him – it'd been written in Israel and I was to take it to its new home after sewing on some rollers and other details.

Well, some colleagues and I opened up that scroll and we were horrified. The writing was appalling. By no stretch of the imagination could it have been described as kosher.

So back it went to Mr Go-Between, who insisted that it was completely fine. No problems at all, he said. 100% kosher, he said. He sent it back to us. We sent it back to him. Repeat a couple of times; he was adamant that this scroll was absolutely kosher with no problems at all.

Eventually he was persuaded to examine it in daylight, and he conceded that there were more than one hundred critical errors per column. Completely fine, hm? 100% kosher? No problems at all? Right.

Subsequent investigation revealed that the sofer had taken the commission despite his failing sight. He had written the scroll practically blind, and while that's quite an achievement, it doesn't make for a kosher scroll.

But we digress. This was Mr Go-Between insisting that a really dreadful Torah was totally fine. Later, I took him my scroll for scanning, and he insisted that the writing was deeply deeply problematic in assorted ways.

Clearly I'm not unbiased, but at least mine didn't have a hundred critical errors per column.

I certainly have scope for improvement, but that seemed like some pretty intense cognitive dissonance to me. I just have to bite down and count myself lucky that he'll deal with me at all. Oh, and watch out for my own biases making me behave similarly in other areas of my life – nasty experience, good lesson, anyway.

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