I am happy to say that, production-wise, we are on the home stretch at last. In early September, designer John D. Berry implemented the myriad art changes, deletions, and additions to the book that I had devised over the spring and summer. I checked his work at each stage; because of text-flow and other production issues, a few of the chapters took several rounds to get right. At that point, before going ahead with the final pass through the book to settle everything into place and lock it down, we took a snapshot of sorts, creating a second complete art-inflected electronic galley proof of the book as a whole. I sent e-galleys to John Crowley, Peter Milton, and a few of the Little, Big Project’s consultants and guardian angels, so that everyone could see how the tenor of the whole had shifted in response to our changes, changes affecting almost 20% of the art, and have a chance to offer their responses.
On September 16th and 28th, John Crowley and I spent in total close to five hours on the phone, him with his copy of the book’s PDF file open on his computer and me with mine open on mine, and together we went over every single page spread, every single art layout, 792 pages and 300 + pieces of art. We happily signed off on the lion’s share of them. We earmarked at least fifteen pieces for deletion, most of them pieces that had been carried over from the previous version. John decided that the context for one new piece, a detail from Dress Rehearsal, was wrong; but we both loved the art and he found a new home for it 150 pages further on. We discovered that a pair of marginal details on facing pages in the novel’s penultimate chapter, which had been deleted from the previous layout to make way for another, more important pair, could quite felicitously be restored on an adjacent page spread, where it will make a nice complement to the new art; again the suggestion was John’s. Another double handful of layouts require tweaking, the precise nature of which is still to be determined. But all of this is on a much smaller scale than the comprehensive changes I had mapped out earlier in the year, to which we were now responding. Finally we decided that the final piece of art to appear in the text of the novel per se, a glorious full-page reproduction of another detail from Dress Rehearsal, had to be pushed back two pages, from one recto to the next; better, John said, for it to appear on the page spread immediately after the text that is intended to be its nominal referent than for it to appear on the page spread immediately before: for this was one of those odd instances where, because of how the relevant text fell on the page spread, it was not possible for both text and art to appear on the same spread. But exploited properly, that fact will add its own unique aesthetic effect.
In between the two phone conferences with Crowley, I heard from artist Peter Milton. Of the new galleys he writes,
I was immediately thrilled by its overall feeling, and by the all-pervading conviction of its simply needing to be.
I loved the surprise each time I came across a new image for the first time; I particularly loved the small block of groupings that would appear from time to time, an inventiveness I would never tire of. I was amused by the two arguing Joyce figures appearing at the beginning of the Bloom essay. Nicely done. You have made me love my work.
You and John Berry (not to mention one Mr. Crowley) have totally confirmed my impression from the start that this was going to end up an object of pure pleasure. Thank you so much for persevering through so much adversity.
We’re not quite out of the Woods’ yet, but the wardrobe is open, and there’s a distant light coming through tangles of green and grey...
Other efforts during September were directed towards resolving logistical issues that will help smooth the way, later, for the editions’ transition to print production.
Finally, I decided that I should send at least one copy of the electronic galleys out to someone beyond our immediate circle, someone who might put out the word that, yes, we really do have an all-but-printer-ready new edition of Little, Big, someone of discernment and taste who might offer a frank opinion as to whether our edition has been worth the wait. I was never in any doubt as to whom that person should be: the fabulous Greer Gilman, author of Moonwise and Cloud & Ashes, tales that lovers of John Crowley’s work would be well advised to seek out (I’ve had the honor and pleasure of introducing a number of Little, Big subscribers to Gilman’s work, and every one of them has been enchanted; there’s a good chance you will be too). On Saturday, October 2nd, Gilman published an eloquent review of the new edition on her LiveJournal; when I first read it, I thought, almost as if I were waking up from a long, incredibly vivid, labyrinthine dream, “Oh! It’s really okay! I can wrap the book up now and get it to the printer!”