Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
I love English. I love grammar. Even when I get it wrong (dangle a particple, don't use an antecedent, run-on sentence), I love learning about the nuts and bolts of English. If you attended a Catholic school in the 1950s and '60s as I did, then you know how to diagram a sentence, that is, breaking a sentence down into its component parts so that you know how a sentence goes together. It was boring, but necessary, and it has served me well.

I am a sucker for buying books about the English language. As a result, I know about the great vowel shift and inkhorn terms and Chancery English, and so when I saw Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots, and Leaves at a used bookstore, I bought it.

Publishing a book on grammar takes guts. Inevitably, you will have thousands of people poring over your every sentence looking for mistakes and posting reviews on Amazon, and in this book, it doesn't take long to find them. We all make mistakes, but the author's overuse of the semicolon borders on abuse. A similar complaint can be made for her use of the colon. Even her use of commas is questionable.

In short, this book should not be used as a grammar guide, especially if you are an American. (Truss is British.) British and American grammar differ, particularly in the use of quotation marks. Another quibble: One half of this small book is devoted to the misuse of an apostrophe. This is a legitimate complaint, but half a book? That's overkill.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Jane Austen Education - A Review

A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter

Although I have greatly enjoyed most of what Jane Austen wrote, I never liked Mansfield Park. I found Fanny Price insufferable, and Edmund Bertram a bit of a bore. As for the other characters, with the possible exception of Mary Crawford, I didn’t like them enough to care about them. For me, personally, the novel was a dud, but that was before I read William Deresiewicz’s A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love and Friendship.

According to Deresiewicz, Austen had something to teach us in Mansfield Park: a form of usefulness. After Edmund encounters ten-year-old Fanny Price, who was crying after being separated from her family and brought to Mansfield Park, he said: “Let us walk out in the park, and you shall tell me all about your brothers and sisters.”

Friday, June 10, 2011

This Day in History - Congress of Vienna Concludes

The Congress of Vienna was a conference of ambassadors of European states, chaired by Klemens von Metternich, and held in Vienna from September, 1814 to June, 1815 for the purpose of settling the many issues that arose from the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, and the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. The Congress resulted in the redrawing of the continent's political map, establishing the boundaries of France, Napoleon's Duchy of Warsaw, the Netherlands, the states of the Rhine, the German province of Saxony, and various Italian territories, and the creation of spheres of influence through which Austria, Britain, France and Russia brokered local and regional problems. The Congress of Vienna was the first of a series of international meetings that came to be known as the Concert of Europe, which was an attempt to forge a peaceful balance of power in Europe.