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The Constant Gardener


Last Updated: 08/13/2013 4:18 pm

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The only child who loved reading above all else seems to have found her dream career. The one thing that rankles Slung is the too-frequent question, “When are you going to do your own books?”
“I am doing my own books,” she bristles. “No one else, even given exactly the same twenty stories, would put them together in quite the same way. It’s an arrangement, like my house. People don’t ask a collage artist, ‘Why don’t you paint?’”
“I wanted to make a career of reading. I’m a very good writer, but I didn’t set out to be a writer, I set out to be a reader,” Slung asserts. There seems little question that she’s succeeded, interleaving anthology work with manuscript editing for various publishers, most recently, Carroll & Graf.
Asked how much she reads, Slung seems unable to answer. She does admit that she reads “very, very fast,” adding, “I take it for granted. It’s something that’s innate and natural to me, like an athlete who’s always been able to run.” She finds early morning the best reading time, and usually wakes at 6:30 to brew café au lait and sit down with a book. She also likes reading on trains and in restaurants, and often brings manuscripts to such favorite dinner spots as El Danzante, Miss Lucy’s, and New World Home Cooking. She concedes that there are “three tall stacks of books” next to her bed, and she hasn’t watched TV or read daily papers for years.
Surrounded by books and a beloved cat, Minnie, the talkative Slung seems richly contented. “I cherish my past. I think life is an anthology, frankly—we all have a lot of stories to tell, and they’re all gathered in one person.”
There are indeed many stories gathered in Michele Slung. Among others, she chaired the Woodstock Library Fair for three years, has reviewed books for NPR’s “Morning Edition,” and even once house-sat for Samuel Johnson, filling in for a friend who was caretaker of Dr. Johnson’s historic abode. Asked if there’s anything she hasn’t done yet that she’d like to do, Slung’s answer is instantaneous: “Carry a tune.” Short, quirky, and perfectly phrased. That’s good editing.

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