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The Novelist Edits the Scientist

It’s not unusual for the paperback edition of a book to include some corrections from the hardcover. What is certainly more startling is when the person acting as editor is Cormac McCarthy.

Next month, W.W. Norton will release the paperback version of Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science, by Lawrence M. Krauss, a professor of physics and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. The book on Feynman, Krauss’s first foray in biography, was well received when it was published last March. Now it is out again, but with a twist. A discreet note on back cover and title page flag the involvement of the author of All the Pretty Horses, Blood Meridian, The Road, No Country for Old Men…

Naturally we were curious.

“I was thrilled that Cormac volunteered to do this,” responds Krauss in an e-mail. “He said he had never done this before, but he loved the book so much that he wanted to make it better.”

So what were some of the changes McCarthy made to the bio?

“To start with,” Krauss writes, “he made me promise he could excise all exclamation points and semicolons, both of which he said have no place in literature.” The novelist, he adds, “went through the book in detail and made suggestions for rephrasing in certain points as well.”

McCarthy’s deepening involvement in scientific circles has been the subject of recent comment. As for Krauss and the novelist, they have known each other for about four years, says the former. “Having Cormac’s name on the paperback is one of the biggest honors I could imagine.”

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