April 09, 2006

Time to read the Powell's Books newsletter

Should Finally had time this morning to read through the latest Powell's Books newsletter that arrived earlier in the week by newsletter. A few good links:

*The Katrina Project/ Levee for Life: help rebuild the New Orleans Public Library. According to information on the website, "Hurricane Katrina damaged all the New Orleans Public Library's 13 buildings, and ruined eight — where collections, computers, and furniture are beyond repair. Total damage has been estimated at $26-$30 million. Five libraries are now open. Funds are coming in to renovate the damaged branches and to provide temporary service via mobile libraries." For more information, go to the Katrina Project/One Nation or the website for Rebuilding New Orleans Public Library; check the latter's FAQ section for donating directly, cash or books (published since 2005 only, please) to the NOPL. You can also help buy buying NOPL t-shirts and bookplates. Not a bad idea for Mother's Day and Father's Day...

*The Ink Q&A interview with June Casagrande, author of Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies: A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite. Her reasons for writing the book?
First, I wanted to help people who don't know where to turn with their language questions: Why do you say, "This is she," instead of, "This is her," on the phone? Why is it that you'd say, "He is at the park," but "is" changes to "be" when you say, "It is imperative that he be at the park"? When does punctuation go inside quotation marks? Do you lay or lie on the beach and which of these two activities will get you arrested? Why does the New York Times write "1980's" but the Los Angeles Times write "1980s"? I try to answer the questions people really need answers to (including the myth about ending sentences with prepositions).

Second, I wanted to serve this information in the context of a book people would actually read. There are plenty of language books on the market that start with a basic explanation of subject and predicate, etc. They have great information, but no one ever reads them past page 5. My solution was to compile a bunch of essays, anecdotes and rants to be read for their own sakes. The grammar lessons are slipped in on the side.

Third, and most of all, I wanted to jackslap every grammar meanie who ever made someone feel small. Especially those who pretend to know more than they do. These people have done a disservice to language learning and that's why I go rough on them (too rough to justify, really, but it's all for a good cause.)
"Spite"? "Jackslap"?? "Too rough to justify, really, but..."??? Knowing that Casagrande has had "four years of improvisational comedy training" explains a fair amount. I'm sticking with Strunk & White, and when I need entertainment with my grammar I'll try the new illustrated edition, the supposedly intimidating (what was Publishers Weekly thinking?) Lynne Truss, or always delightful Patricia T. O'Conner.

*And I'm happy to see that Erin McKean, author of The Concise Oxford American Dictionary, Weird and Wonderful Words, and Verbatim: From the Bawdy to the Sublime, the Best Writing on Language for Word Lovers, Grammar Mavens, and Armchair Linguists, will be guest blogging at Powell's starting tomorrow through Friday.

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