12 July 2008

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves

Lynne Truss's book is about proper punctuation, preferably proper British English punctuation. She discusses both the historical and modern uses of punctuation and tries to find a middle ground between her stickler's instinct to keep it all the same and the inevitable changes that any language will encounter. Unfortunately, the main problem with the language at the moment isn't punctuation but the writing. Before anyone devotes another 150 (small) pages to the demise of proper punctuation, maybe we need to have a good conversation about the proper use of words between the squiggly marks.

This is the third poorly written book I've read in the past few weeks and it's starting to be a bit disheartening. Tulip Fever was a terrible experience and I only finished it because it takes place in the Netherlands and it was important to me to be able to tell students and friends exactly what it was about and what I thought of it. I also tried to read Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything is Illuminated and was sorely disappointed. To his credit, he is trying to do something very specific with language, namely imagining how someone with a thesaurus and limited knowledge of English might write. The problem is that the writing becomes so stilted and complicated that all the pleasure gets sucked out of it.

Today (if the rain lets up just a little bit) I'm off to the library to get some more books and hoping I have better luck. My bad luck streak has me wondering if I was better of buying books. At least then I was pickier. Books only came home that met higher standards. Now, I'm at the mercy of what's on the shelves and perhaps just not being picky enough. We'll see.


  1. i haven't read tulip fever (where's the rant btw?) but quite enjoyed 'everything is illuminated'. agreed, the style is not at all easy but by the end i was quite getting into it! animal's people, which i am reading now, is great, and again has a very unique voice. thoroughly believable and enthalling. read and tell me what you think!

  2. I thought a rant might be a bit out of order, but I'll think about it... Thanks for the Animal's People tip!


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