Friday, November 11, 2005

Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Too

One of the very few nonfiction books that I've ever read cover to cover is Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynn Truss. Since I consider myself a punctuation stickler and was known as the "Grammar Nazi" in my research group in grad school, I'd like to think that this book was written exclusively for me and a small set of like-minded, self-important grammar snobs. Surely, only a small, exclusive group of people would be amused by punctuation humor! In reality, the thing was a best-seller in both the UK and the US, leading me to question just how erudite my sense of humor really is. I guess the audience for the author's brand of self-mockingly self-righteous humor includes more than just those of us who know the glee that comes from a really good semicolon deployment. Besides, anything written as a defense of the King's English is inherently amusing when done in an English accent. Oh, and the book's quite short, which may help explain not only why it was so successful, but also why I managed to stay interested long enough to finish it.

I'm sure you're asking, "Why bring this up? What do I care?" Well, just a couple of days ago, Lynn Truss' new book, Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door, was released. Where ES&L was a tirade on punctuation, this little book promises to be tirade on manners. I must admit I'm intrigued, though I'm not as punctilious about my manners as about my punctuation. Sadly, the New York times has described it as "a thin and crabby diatribe" and also said Ms. Truss "may have been good for only one book-length conniption." Hmm. Those comments have me worried (though I always enjoy reading the word "conniption"). Side note: At a svelte 216 pages, this book likely has one of the highest ever ratios of title length to total length. I'm not sure that fact is important or significant in any way; I just thought you should know.

By the way, I believe the only other nonfiction book I've ever completed is the much, much longer The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. In writing this entry, I discovered that TMotAB also has a sequel, Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb, which was published in the mid 1990s. Where have I been? How did this escape my notice? I blame you. Anyway, I'll be adding Dark Sun to my wish list soon.

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