Thursday, 29 May 2008

What I've been reading

Image of the book cover

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
by Mark Twain

"When Connecticut mechanic and foreman Hank Morgan is knocked unconscious, he wakes not to the familiar scenes of nineteenth-century America but to the bewildering sights and sounds of sixth-century Camelot. Although confused at first and quickly imprisoned, he soon realises that his knowledge of the future can transform his fate. But the Connecticut Yankee wishes for more than simply a place at the Round Table. Soon, he begins a far greater struggle: to bring American democratic ideals to Old England."
Hank never gives up his wonderful way of talking to the 6th century English using his 19th century vernacular: "Do they knock off at noon?" "Where do they hang out?" despite being met by baffled incomprehension. He likens their speech to a version of English that is closer to German: "Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth."

I've really enjoyed this, until quite near the end when it starts to get a bit violent. I first read it when I was much younger, and didn't understand half the jokes. I'm fairly sure my limited knowledge of Mark Twain's America means I've missed a few this time too.

Image of the book cover

Eats, Shoots and Leaves
by Lynne Truss

"When social histories come to be written of the first decade of the 21st century, people will note a turning point in 2003 when declining standards of punctuation were reversed. Linguists will record Lynne Truss as the saviour of the semi-colon and the avenging angel of the apostrophe."
I got this out of the library to read the first time because it was causing so much media fuss - I didn't want to follow the crowd and buy it. [Pity I didn't follow the same principle with the Da Vinci Code; now I'm left with a copy I don't want and nobody is going to take off me.] It was brilliant, so now I've mooched it from Bookmooch (I can't publicise that site enough!).

What I didn't know, because the library book didn't have it, is that the paperback comes with a Punctuation Repair Kit - stickers with punctuation printed on it plus some stickers to obliterate punctuation in the wrong place. I love it!

Another reason I wanted to read the book again was this blog. It's been a long time since school, and I used to know the rules for punctuation, but then I found myself using quote marks and brackets and I didn't know whether to put the punctuation inside or outside when I finish a sentence (like this). (Or this?) And where does the punctuation go with quotes? I'm going to have to get used to the answer, which includes 'double' punctuation, which looks very odd to me. There's an example at the end of the last paragraph but one.


Brett said...

I've seen the book but thought that a book on punctuation would be a bit dull.

Lola said...

Not a bit dull, she's a comedy writer, and it had me laughing out loud. I thoroughly recommend it!

Anonymous said...

I love eats, shoots and leaves! Especially the 'panda says no' stickers. And it's written in such a funny way as well. It's brilliant!


Swearing Mother said...

I've got Eats, Shoots and Leaves, but as you can see from my blog, I ignore just about every rule in it.

I decided early on in my blogwriting career that I'd use all grammatical tools to suit myself,to hell with the consequences, and have probably driven people like Lynne Truss round the bend with frustration.

Liked the idea of the stickers though. I'm a sucker for stickers.

Brett said...

I agree, i decided that if a spelling error got past me and the spell checker, and it did not really change the meaning, i would let it stay. Makes me look more human.

Anonymous said...

Oh that book is ace - the Shoots one. I got an cd of the author reading parts of it (free with a newspaper) and it is excellent, both useful and very very funny.

I never actually seem to read anything these days that is not for work, well other than bedtime stories for the children.

Ian said...

lola you dont need no stinking punctuation punctuation is no longer necessary in todays world the godsend that is texting and instant messaging has freed us from the tyranny of proper punctuation and besides the human brain can only hold so much information why clutter it unnecessarily i recommend a mental control-alt-delete of that horrible little book right now

Richard Madeley said...

That is so strange. I'm currently half way through 'A Connecticut Yankee'. A good book but he doesn't half go on about the nature of monarchies.

The Truss book is quite funny but quite useless as a guide to punctuation. I seem to remember that she manages to get quite a few things completely wrong and her advice about using commas is next to useless.

Lola said...

I think the comments demonstrate that there are those of us who like grammar and punctuation, and those who don't! I'm not changing sides any time soon...