Sunday, March 08, 2009

A notation

Now and again I borrow a book from the library to find that a previous borrower has added their own annotations to the text, usually to correct some kind of perceived error. It's a little puzzling why people do this; neither the author nor the publisher is ever likely to see the annotations (assuming that authors don't tour public libraries sneakily taking a look at their works), and to other readers, it's just a distraction. I suppose in the heat of that form of Tourette's syndrome known as Grammatical Correctness Obsession Disorder, it's hard to resist. It can happen even in the most elevated circles, as the Cambridge UL's page on marginalia and other crimes shows.

What would be even more obsessive than adding such annotations is someone going through them and critiquing them. So how could I resist? If you are the person who made comments on Hart and Boot by Tim Pratt in the paperback copy from Santa Monica Public Library, this is for you.
  1. On page 58, you corrected the possessive of Doug from Doug's to Dougs's, presumably becuase it is modifying a plural (messages). This is incorrect. Dougs's would be the possessive of Dougs. You can see examples of the correct usage, Doug's, in Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech and Svartvik's A Grammar Of Contemporary English, section 4.101.
  2. On the same page, you corrected She hated making people wait on her to ...for her. It's marginal, but here I think I agree.
  3. On page 73, you removed the comma in a light, unreasonable rain. Wrong!
  4. You changed people go missing all the time on page 94 to people are missing all the time. Not only wrong, but it changes the meaning.
  5. Somewhere (I didn't note it), you missed a typographical error where too appears as to0.
  6. On page 105, you changed unself-consciousness to un-selfconsciousness. I prefer your version.
  7. On page 150, you noted the oddness of his noble face crouched in thought. Yes, it's odd, though no worse than rain being unreasonable on page 73 which you minded less than the comma.
  8. Page 162 has a change from different than to different from. I fart on this one. Lots of people say different than is incorrect, including the odious Strunk. It's totally comprehensible, and that seems sufficient.
  9. Page 187, one of the small pleasures available to we bodiless ones, change to us bodiless ones. Oh, I dunno. I like the original better.
  10. Page 205, and here we reach the last and most glorious of your annotations. A character knows as The Regent refers to another character, Wisp, by name. The annotations says: but cf. p.185, last para, 1st line. It is beautiful that you tell us where to look, but not what the error is, thus engaging our own scholarship. The line cited is My name is not Wisp, but that is what zie calls me. Zie here is a made up pronoun and refers to Howlaa, who is not the regent. So presumably this comment is meant to indicate an inconsistency, that it is only Howlaa calls the narrator Wisp. However, there was a scene on page 192 in which The Regent, Howlaa and Wisp are talking to each other, and Howlaa uses the name Wisp. Hence it's reasonable that The Regent now also knows to call the narrator Wisp. So close, but so far.
Anyway, it's thoughts like this that have made me who I am today.


Robert Konigsberg said...

Item number 10: you say "tells" when "tell" is correct.

Hey, this is kind of fun! May someday I'll get me my own book from the Santa Monica Library!

Moosteron said...


Fixed it. I *knew* I'd make at least one embarrassing typo.