The one time that this store of fucked-up knowledge might actually have come in handy, I didn't use it. It was, again, in college, where I got my start in publishing as a copy editor for my school's student newspaper. This is a bigger deal than it sounds like. I went to one of the biggest colleges in the country, and I was copy chief for one of the biggest student papers in the country, whose circulation of seventeen thousand was considerably larger than that of many regular newspapers. And it was here that I met the only person in the world toward whom I harbor genuine personal animosity. He had a name like Roomer, but we all called him the Ritaler, after the drug he ground up and snorted.
Roomer was skinny and lank-haired and hyper, and he loved only two things: himself, and Bret Easton Ellis. (He used to regale me with lurid passages from American Psycho, for what reason I cannot imagine.) Everything he did was calculated to bring him closer to some brutal glittering lifestyle like Patrick Bateman's, a world where money and image were all -- only instead of pulling down six figures at some magazine in New York he was waving his dick around in the newsroom of a college paper in the Midwest, snorting Ritalin because he couldn't get his hands on real cocaine. It was pathetic, and it would have been funny, only he was my boss.
Without going into a lot of detail, I cannot explain Roomer's approach to life better than by saying that he had Maxim delivered to the office. I spent a while considering this. There is no good reason to have Maxim delivered to your office, even assuming that there is a good reason to have it delivered anywhere. Roomer spent most of his working hours at the bar down the street anyway; he could have read Maxim there, or anywhere else. He must have been trying to prove something. Maxim was all of a piece with that shiny emotionless surface-world he so desperately longed to inhabit, and I guess leaving it on his desk was some kind of territorial pissing, a reminder that he was the alpha male.
I would be lying if I said that Roomer wasn't a good writer, because he was, in the sense that his work was clear and concise and grammatically sound. Unfortunately, he was just as arrogant in print as in person. He and I locked horns frequently, once I had seen past his surface charm: I flagged every sexist, classist, pompous sentiment in the copy he handed me, and this often made him angry, and that he would be angry at me for doing my job in turn made me angry. And it was because of this that I missed my grand opportunity to make use of that perverted parade of names I can call up at will.
It was in some fluff piece whose subject I don't remember. What I do remember is a casual reference to Ottis Toole, a serial killer currently serving five consecutive life terms. Only the name wasn't given as Ottis Toole.
The name was given as Otis Toole.
I can't explain why I failed to make the correction. It wasn't because I didn't notice the misspelling, and it wasn't because I wanted to spite Roomer. I had already choked the page with comments, so maybe I was just overwhelmed at that moment by the punishing weight of his personality flaws. But for whatever reason, I didn't make the correction, and so it went to press like that. And there it will stand forever, a monument to a copy editor who didn't know how to spell a serial killer's name.
There's a moral to all of this, most likely.
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