Sunday, May 22, 2016

Between Mary & Me

Dear Mary Norris,

Right from the beginning, you've got me agonizing about punctuation. Should I have used a colon in my salutation? What about that comma? I'll just admit that commas are my bete noire. Yes, there should be that caret thing over the first e in bete.

Even with all my personal issues, I loved your book. You have replaced Lynne Truss in my affections of that kind. You're wittier than English Teacher X. I feel as if you and I could talk over lunch in a way that I wouldn't be comfortable with Strunk & White.

After finishing Between You & Me, I could feel the essence of it inside me. I was walking carefully, even delicately so that I wouldn't disturb it as it settled. And then. Then I walked into the local Salvation Army store (the back room is full of books) and agghhh! BAG'S FOR SALE! TOY'S 50% off....I could go on, but no. I looked at the BOOK'S and left. What can you say in a situation like that? You can't.

As for your title, right away, I was bathed in a warm, rosy, nostalgic glow. It takes me back to the time someone actually praised me for saying "Gerald and me" instead of "Gerald and I". Gerald was my co-worker, and I was explaining that I didn't know if I had a certain holiday off because "The boss didn't say anything to Gerald and me." This person nearly choked up, he was so grateful. (That should be a semicolon between up and he, right?) If my usage of grammar and punctuation were (unreal conditional!) cooked pasta flung at the wall, there would be a fair number of strands on the floor. Anyway, no one since then has praised me for inflecting pronouns correctly. I serve them up and wait expectantly, but no joy.

Speaking of things not always being quite right, let's talk about page 69. You have an error! I was horrified for you but pleased that I found it. I can't decide if you did it deliberately and the person who finds it gets a plum of a prize. You called Becky in Vanity Fair Becky Thatcher instead of Becky Sharp...or is that Sharpe? I can't remember. I just know that B. Thatcher is Tom Sawyer's girlfriend.

Can I choose my prize? If so, can I have a job at The New Yorker? I always spell "traveller" with two l's, even when spellcheck admonishes me, as it is now.

Here is my favorite part of Between You & Me: When a writer used the term "star fucker" in an article and a reader wrote in to complain not about the vulgarity, but the absence of a hyphen. I was smiling until my cheeks hurt at the thought of receiving correspondence like this on a regular basis. I'm really happy for you.

This is my favorite quote from the chapter about swearing (F*ck This Sh*t):

You cannot legislate language. Prohibition never worked, right? Not for booze and not for sex and not for words. And yet no one wants to be pummeled constantly by four-letter words. If we are going to use them, let's use them right. Profanity ought to be fun. I love the title of this chapter and thought I should spell out those words uncensored -- swag it out! But I like it even better with the blessed euphemism: the asterisks standing in for the vowels are interior punctuation, little fireworks inside the words.

There's so much more, but I must stop somewhere before I resort to emojis.

No wait: Your trip to the Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum in Logan, Ohio. Awwww! I love it! I want to go, too!

I borrowed your book from the library and I hate the thought of having to return it next week. Between You & Me will most likely become part of my permanent collection when I next visit a bookstore. Thank you for writing it and providing grammar and punctuation nerds such as myself a couple of blissful hours of entertainment. If there is a reward for spotting the wrong Becky on page 69, please let me know here.

Sincerely your fan,
Susan Bybee


Unruly Reader said...

Oh my land. Best review ever? Quite possibly.

Yes. I'm pretty sure: yes.

(improper use of colon?)

Care said...

crap - I keep leaving comments on your OLD blog because it links back to it! sorry. But it IS better than that gravatar page that goes NOWHERE.
sorry, what were you saying? Go CUBS? right? yes, that 's right.