[W]hen they came to print a second edition in 1952, seven years after the end of the second world war, Fisher and her editors decided to overhaul the text — but their approach is remarkable. Rather than incorporating seamless changes, Fisher’s edits are presented throughout as commentary in square brackets.
Edits are often uncomplimentary:
“There are two ways to boil rice correctly,” Fisher writes later, to which her older self responds: “[How arbitrary can you be? I should have said, ‘I think there are…!’].” And of one simple dish, she writes: “But it is dressed for the fair, in its most exciting clothes, and it can be the mainstay of a poor family’s nourishment or the central dish of a buffet supper for 20 jaded literary critics with equal nonchalance. [One of the most painful things about X’s annotating X is a sentence like this. ’…with equal nonchalance’ should follow the phrase ‘and it can’. It is apparently more obvious to X now than in 1942. X blushes.]”
Rethinking isn’t unusual:
Tracy Kidder, became so offended by his first book, The Road To Yuba City, that he actually bought the rights from the original publisher so that it could never be re-issued.
We like to think that Thoreau went home to Concord and just wrote up his notes. He didn’t. He wrote up seven different drafts of Walden in eight years, piecing together what Margaret Fuller called the mosaic method a book that seems casual and even chatty. Probably no classic of American literature was more deliberately fashioned.
Sometimes what’s done isn’t done.