Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Attack of the Bad Grammar Fairy

Just returned from a fab 3-day vacation to Williamsburg. JB and I got some adorable photos which I will post soon, along with a post-vacation analysis.

But I just have to vent for a moment on a very Eats-Shoots-and-Leaves moment I had last week.

I was in the library Wednesday evening, looking for a book to take on our trip (never mind that I've got three at home I haven't read that were early-reviewer copies sent to me through LibraryThing for the express purpose of being read and reviewed...). I picked up an interesting-looking historical mystery from the new books section, mostly because the cover looked similar to my beloved Deanna Raybourn books. Anyway, I opened this particular book to read the flap and...gah! Was that a misplaced modifier? In the book's synopsis? The synopsis that's supposed to get people to want to read the book? Really??

Yes, friends, it was. I reread it incredulously just to make sure I hadn't imagined it, snapped the book shut and replaced it immediately on the shelf. Then I felt just the smallest twinge of embarassment at my little display of complete grammar snobbery.

But seriously. There are loads of interesting books at my library and gazillions in the world, so why should I waste my time investigating one where the editor/author/agent had so little interest (or knowlege of grammar) that they all let a glaring error like that slip into the very paragraph designed to draw readers in? What kind of grammatical horrors await inside the book? I guess I'll never know.

I won't tell you the author or book title. Plus the author is apparently doing something right since she has published a series of books featuring one of my favorite real 19th-century authors as a sleuth (which bothers me on other levels, but I digress).

Here's the error, pulled straight from the synopsis. A name has been changed to protect the grammatically ignorant:

"With her future clouded by grief, Mr. Smith can’t help but notice the Queen is curiously preoccupied with the past."

This sentence makes no sense, until you realize it should read something like, "Mr. Smith can't help but notice that the Queen, her future clouded by grief, is curiously preoccupied with the past."

That, or Mr. Smith is transgender.

It irks me that the publishing industry supposedly has such high standards that keep it notoriously difficult to break into, yet lazy stuff like this happens once you've got a book deal. It makes me want to yell in a whiny and childish manner. If they'd give me a book deal, I'd never let stuff like that happen! I'd be conscientiously aware of how lucky I am and work hard make sure my book is near-perfect! At least, that's what I'd whine to any editor who would listen.

Not every author is expert at grammar and shouldn't really have to be, so most of the blame here is on the book's editor, I guess. And I don't think I'm being too harsh here; editing is what this editor Does For A Living.

Eh. It isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But I think I'm not out of line in expecting some grammatical excellence from the books I read, fluff or not.


shannon said...

Eh, I'm with you - I grew up with an English teacher for a mother. :)

Chad Aaron Sayban said...

I completely agree! I would have put the book right back on the shelf. There are far too many other books waiting to be read. I feel bad for the author if this was a mistake by the publisher. Who knows how many people saw that error and put the book back on the story shelf unpurchased.

Deanna said...

That sentence makes me queasy too. Thank goodness it wasn't mine. (And I can't believe you were in my town and didn't holler at me!)