I withdrew a submission to a university alumni magazine this week, because the editor misread an acerbic, ironic phrase as literal, and objected to it.
As, read literally, the phrase offended her political viewpoint, I saw this as not only misreading, but censorship.
It reminded me of Max Harris being found guilty of indecency for publishing the Ern Malley poems, because the police found indecency in the narrator's intentions in "shall rest snug and know what he means". In another instance, "the indecency lay in the fact that the 'events took place in a park at night'". As well as for using the word "genitals" and "incestuous" - the prosecuting policeman said that he did not know what the latter meant, but felt confident that it was indecent. It's strange to think that such was the world I was born in to.
Fortunately, withdrawal meant that I did not have to object to her wish to change "wheel" to "turn", "skeletons" to "frames", or change some punctuation which destroyed a deliberate rythmn. This trivia made me aware that as an editor she is paid to alter someone's writing.
How odd. Her initial reaction to the piece was "absolutely lovely". When an artist takes a painting to a gallery, does the owner say, "Absolutely lovely. I'll just paint out this bit here and here, and change these bits around"?
Ironically, I think that if, in the offending bit, she had edited "was" to "seems", it may have overcome her objections.