Ivan Juritz, editor at Make It New
So light is thy weight on Tellus
Thy notch no deeper indented
Thy weight less than the shadow
Yet hast thou gnawed through the mountain,
Scylla's white teeth less sharp.
How does one talk about a young man whom one barely knows and who died? Remembering scraps of conversation? Reviewing endlessly whether there was something one said or did that deranged the universe and brought this outcome? Thinking that if one had only been near, this horrible disaster might have been prevented?
Or else revisiting what one knows: here was Ivan, in his twenties, not merely promising fulfilment of his intelligence and talent, but making good on the promise. As a PhD student at the University of Queen Mary in London, he was working on a thesis about the soul: drawing a line from Aristotle to Freud, Pound and Laplanche. When he told me about it in the only skype conversation we had, I must have stared, as these lines of ideas were unknown to me. But at the time, he had already won a four-month research fellowship to pursue his project. I found that much later, trying to follow his light footprint on the internet.
I was more curious to know why he wanted to be editor of Make It New, whether there was a part of the magazine that he especially liked. Here the answer came quickly: he liked the music column, he was interested to see how he could use musical knowledge in scholarship. I pricked my ears, but asked almost casually whether he played an instrument? “I play the piano a little,” he answered rather sheepishly. Now was the time to pounce: “What do you play?” “Well, I like Ravel.” This time it was too late to let go: “Ravel, what?” “Alborada del gracioso.” Jesus, Mary and Joseph! I happen to have Ravel’s Miroirs at home: The Alborada has 16 pages of score, well beyond your accomplished “grade 8” level. Even for a professional, an enormous challenge.
So I told him that if he liked music, there was a little job he could do to ease his transition into editorial duties. There was a recent event, a German composer, Matthias Pintscher, had chosen a few lines by Pound for a new musical composition, “A Whirling Tissue of Light” - would he care to write a short bit of reportage? Nothing complicated, just follow the event and the comments online, show a bit of the score, give some info on the composer and pianist? He said he would do that.
Then I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Then I said to myself, what the hell, I should drop him an email and ask what he was doing. Turns out, he was not interested in writing reportage after all. He wanted to write something on a par with Margaret Fisher’s articles for the music column. And he was stuck: this was the first time he was trying to write on music and poetry. So we discussed it together. My approach was something like Agassiz and the fish: look at the score: what do you notice, how does the musical writing reproduce, or rather provide an interpretation in musical terms of the rhythm, the imagery and the emotion in the lines? It was enough. He came up with an excellent article which I could have very well placed in the music column and which Margaret herself loved. This was Ivan: he had a mind of his own and was tremendously ambitious for his work. “Please don’t change a word,” he told me. I didn’t.
When the time came to edit MIN 1.4, I wanted to be careful and prudent, after all, this was a young man I barely knew. So I gave him the pdf of the issue so that I could see what he was doing. He could not actually change anything, just alert me to what needed changing. Did I want just proofreading, he asked me, or everything? I naturally said I wanted everything, after all, I wanted an editor, not a proof-reader: comments on the texts, personal evaluations, proposals of improving sentences and layout where appropriate, and yes, of course, typos, grammar, well, everything. I also told him he can skip the Italian bibliography at the end, I had corrected that twice, and Massimo Bacigalupo had also looked at it twice, so we’re good.
Ivan’s “everything” was so detailed, thorough and cogent that I thanked my lucky stars. I especially prized his comments and personal impressions, they were funny, challenging, interesting. And well, would he listen to me to leave the Italian bibliography alone? No, of course not, he edited it and was I glad he did. He had the editor’s magical gift for pouncing on the error. He was a natural.
Ivan was good at the raw business of living, he was making it up as he went, he was putting his imprint on the minds of people who knew and respected him. All he needed was experience: something that one gets by living, not dying.
Did he believe in the soul? Do we?
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