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A Highlander And His Books


Eats, Shoots & Leaves

By Lynne Truss

 

Reviewed by Frank R. Shaw, 1320 Twelve Oaks Circle, NW, Atlanta, GA, 30327, USA

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air. “Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder. “I’m a panda,” he says, at the door. “Look it up.” The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation. Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

Some of you may be wondering what this book has to do with our Scottishness since it is not about Scotland. Well, the book is about her people and all English-speaking people and their ability or inability to speak the Queen’s language correctly. Anyway, welcome to the charming, entertaining, delightful, witty, brilliant, and wacky world of Lynne Truss, a stickler for the English language, passionate about her subject, and one who takes no prisoners!

I’m sure Mrs. Grimes and Miss White, my two high school English teachers who adopted me as a special project, deserve the highest commendations for their long struggle of trying to teach me grammar. Each would love to read this greatly informative book by a special lady who at one time or another has been writer, journalist, television critic, television presenter, novelist, sports columnist, book reviewer, and literary editor.

Even more so, my teachers would really be impressed that I read the book! They would scratch theirs heads in wonder if they knew I enjoyed it and found it interesting, enchanting, and humorous. “Miracles never cease,” I can hear them saying, or “What on earth has happened to Frank?” After all, those two wonderful ladies would remember my daily struggles to grasp the correct use of apostrophes, commas, hyphens, etc., not to mention diagramming a sentence, and the many hours they worked to impart a semblance of grammar between my ears!

Have you ever been in church when you just knew the minister was talking directly to you? You and I know better, but the feeling is uncomfortable, to say the least. Well, when it comes to grammar, I think Truss is talking directly to me when she writes, “You deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave.” Have Mrs. Grimes and Miss White come back to haunt me in the autumn of my years? After all, they preached the same message as the author who correctly states that “punctuation marks are the traffic signals of language: they tell us to slow down, notice this, take a detour, and stop.”

If you enjoy historical anecdotes as I do, you will find many from the famous and not so famous. Take Victor Hugo, for example. When he needed to know how Les Miserables was selling, he telegraphed his publisher with the simple inquiry, “?” Equally captivating was his publisher’s reply,  “!”  Then there is George Bernard Shaw, who is claimed by some Clan Shaw members (who should know better) as one of their own when there is very strong evidence to the contrary. Shaw writes to a friend using a colon like a surgical knife: “I find fault with only three things in this story of yours: the beginning, the middle and the end.”

Lynne Truss enjoys taking the horse (or us) to the water trough, even though she cannot make the horse (or us) drink. Yet, she is very adept at rubbing salt in the horse’s mouth (and ours). You come away from the book with a warm chuckle, grateful and thankful that most of us were lucky enough to have high school teachers who cared the way Mrs. Grimes and Miss White did.  

Lynne Truss, a resident of Brighton, has a best seller in England with over two and a half million copies sold. This “British Book of the Year” has been  #1 on the best seller’s list of The New York Times and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and today hovers in the top ten of both publications after being published in America in April of this year. The book will never rival Dan Brown’s record breaking 8.5 million copies of The Da Vinci Code that have been sold thus far. Yet, it will do something for us Brown’s book failed to do - convince one and all that Truss knows her subject better than Brown knows his! With due apologies to Mrs. Grimes, Miss White and the author, this last sentence is not a dangling participle, or a split infinitive…I hope!  (12-29-04)


Return to February/March 2005 magazine  |  Return to Frank Shaw's Index Page

 


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