Letting someone down easy is never easy. Confusing the issue sometimes helps, though.Since interrogative adaptive paraphrase is perhaps the most uplifting (though at times perhaps also the insincerest) form of flattery, how about gently skirting the issue by saying: Juan Ramon, tell me, if you know,Why, when the singing ended and we turnedToward the town, tell why the glassy lights,The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,As night descended, tilting in the air,Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,Arranging, deepening, enchanting night,On every page of your manuscript.Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,The maker's rage to order words of the sea,Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,And of ourselves and of our origins,In ghostlier demarcations, keener soundsLike these! Your words! Your sounds, Juan Ramon!
I think you try to be straightforward, positive and constructive unless: (a) the project in question has already been placed/sold, in which case you simply act terribly pleased (which I'm sure you would be, in addition to feeling relieved; the pressure's off); (b) you know the person would not welcome or could not tolerate straightforward, positive and constructive remarks. At media companies where I've worked, I faced comparable professional situations all the time and find that they're usually, but not always, negotiable. Life's so complicated. Curtis
Very funny, Tom -- yes, I do find myself carrying on. And yes, Curtis, I agree it is best to be straight forward in certain cases . . . Always complicated. Sigh.
What I do sometimes in these situations is I try to present it as my own shortcoming in reading the manuscript -- "I'm not sure if I get where you're going with the poems" or "I had a hard time finding my way into the poems." Something like that.Then I might invite my friend to say anything they want to about the manuscript.
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