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Cormac McCarthy, copy editor extraordinaire

Cormac McCarthy, author of 'No Country for Old Men' and 'The Road,' has copy-edited a biography of a quantum physicist.

By / February 23, 2012

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Cormac McCarthy volunteered to serve as copy editor for Lawrence Krauss's biography "Quantum Man: Richard Feynman's Life in Science" simply because “he loved the book so much that he wanted to make [it] better.”

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In a letter to Bertha Krantz, his longtime copy editor at Random House, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Cormac McCarthy wrote: “Thanks for your corrections. I hope you understand that they are always welcome. Copy editors are becoming about as rare as any other form of literate life and my offer still stands to have you to read the next book – and/or any future books. I'll talk to you soon. Much love – Cormac.” The letter, written in 1992 upon the publication of "All the Pretty Horses," clearly expresses the author’s esteem for talented copy editors like Krantz (who also worked on Ayn Rand’s behemoth "Atlas Shrugged"), but who could have foreseen that the author himself would join their ranks some 20 years later?

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A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education publicized Cormac McCarthy’s role as copy editor of the paperback edition of "Quantum Man: Richard Feynman's Life in Science" by Lawrence Krauss, to be released next month by W.W. Norton. Krauss, a theoretical physicist and director of the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University, told the Chronicle that McCarthy, whom he has known for about four years, had voluntarily offered his services because “he loved the book so much that he wanted to make [it] better.” He added, “Having Cormac’s name on the paperback is one of the biggest honors I could imagine."

Integral to the process of revision was the excision of “all exclamation points and semicolons, both of which he said have no place in literature. [McCarthy] went through the book in detail and made suggestions for rephrasing in certain points as well.” (The physicist Richard Feynman himself was, ironically, no foe of exclamation marks, as evinced by the title of his popular autobiography, "Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character as Told to Ralph Leighton.")

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