Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2016 April 01 • Friday

No pranks here, just a sincere recommendation for Mary Norris's book Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen.

Norris's first book is part autobiography and part guide to rules, conventions and styles of grammar, particularly punctuation and syntax.

If you read and enjoyed Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots and Leaves, as I did, then this book is for you as well.

Norris writes about her life in an interesting and touching way and while those parts of the book are very rewarding, her passion certainly seems to be for writing itself. She's deeply concerned about the construction of a text, that it should be sound and unassailable but also convey the author's intentions. If an "error" is required to produce a desired effect, than she yields, with honor, to the author.

Her sensitivity to punctuation is exquisite, noting that an upside-down and backwards semicolon looks (a bit) like a question mark and how the asterixes that are intended to censor profanity, as in "f*ck", "are interior punctuation, little fireworks inside the words".

In short, Mary Norris is the kind of person who feels hungover if she accidentally uses a No. 2 pencil instead of a No. 1. And she continues a tradition of intelligent, rigorous writing about language that neither talks down to the reader nor hovers above us, loftily out of reach. We should all have such patient, diligent and compassionate people in our lives.