“When anybody asks, 'What are you writing about now?' if I try to reply, the book-in-the-works sounds so idiotic to me that I think, 'Why am I trying to write that puerile junk?' So now I give up; if I could talk about it, I wouldn't have to write it."
- Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet


Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

This fantastic book by Lynne Truss has been around since 2003, so I’m sure you have all heard of it. Therefore, this is not so much a review of the book as it is an infatuated rave about it. I’m not writing this to convince you to read a new book; I am telling you emphatically that I love it and would absolutely recommend it to anyone.

I adore this book. (Did you get that?) I mean, how often does one get to laugh while improving one’s punctuation skills? According to the end flap, Lynne Truss “ a writer and journalist who started out as a literary editor...”, but as far as I am concerned she is a comedienne and a genius at it. How many people do you know who can make you nearly wet your pants while writing about a semicolon?

If you are a blogger, and I assume that most of the 4+ people who check in here every day are bloggers, you write every (or nearly every) day. And if you write in English, you use standard English punctuation; at least I hope you do. Whether or not you are obsessed with punctuation (or grammar in general), this book will provide you many useful pointers and hilarious anecdotes.

For instance, Lynne (and I do feel I am on a first name basis with her since, though unbeknownst to her, she could be one of my very best friends) talks about the “knock-down fights”, complete with sarcastically re-punctuated Wordsworth poems, that humorist James Thurber used to have with New Yorker editor Harold Ross over commas. And then there is the story about the grocer who became Queen Elizabeth’s Apostropher Royal, in charge of the quality use of apostrophes all across England.

Lynne also fits in examples of the punctuational points she is making by using them in delightful sentences such as this one about the comma:

“Assuming a sentence rises into the air with the initial capital letter and lands with a soft-ish bump at the full stop (period), the humble comma can keep the sentence aloft all right, like this, UP, for hours if necessary, UP, like this, UP, sort-of bouncing, and then falling down, and then UP it goes again, assuming you have enough additional things to say, although in the end you may run out of ideas and then you have to roll along the ground with no commas at all until some sort of surface resistance takes over and you run out of steam anyway and then eventually with the help of three dots ... you stop.”

I am no proponent of run-on sentences, but I must say, if I had written this book, that would absolutely be a passage I read at book-signings.

If you need a brush-up on your punctuational skills, or if you just need a good laugh, you must read this book. It is one that will always be on my bookshelf, and will likely be read many more times in years to come.

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