Trying to Finish a Book

You may be wondering why the blogging here has been so light of late. No, I haven't been traveling; I've actually been holed up in my basement with piles of books and photocopies for the past month, editing my academic book manuscript. For the first couple of weeks it was possible to be a bit relaxed about it, but recently the prospect of having to actually submit it to meet a deadline has made it hard to think about much of anything else.

The book started as a dissertation, and has undergone many changes of direction in recent years. First, it wasn't until 2004 that I really figured out how to simplify and straighten the thesis enough so it could be explained in normal English to a layperson. Then I had to find a publisher, which I did last fall. After that, the biggest challenge was to standardize the language of the book into a single, readable "voice": for better or worse, how I sounded in 2000 is quite different from how I sound now. A lot of my old material (almost 100 pages) had to get cut, but there's some new material written this past year that I'm excited about -- new chapters on "Secularism and Indian Feminism" and "Secularism After 9/11."

It was also surprisingly difficult to get it into the form my publisher wants -- which essentially entails making the pages of the book look like they will if/when it's published. MS Word is incredibly powerful (it can build your index for you!), but it has many odd quirks. Getting the chapter headers and pagination right took a surprisingly long time (damn you, "Same As Previous" default! curse you, "Continuous Section Break"!), and making an "intelligent" Table of Contents that met the publisher's style requirements ultimately defeated me.

But the good news is, Literary Secularism: Religion and Modernity in Twentieth-Century Fiction is about done, and is headed for the hands of an editor.