Monday, April 12, 2004

Today's blog from Fiona is brought to you by the letter "P", and the number 582,365.

P stands for "punctuation publishing phenomenon", and 583,365 is the number of copies, since late last year, that Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots and Leaves has sold in the UK. (To put that in perspective, The Lovely Bones has comparatively only sold 765,725 and has been available for two years, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night Time, a phenomenon enough, has actually only sold 219,235 copies in the year it has been available.)

Now, forgive me that this is only very marginally related to crime fiction, but the book has officially (according to amazon) been released in the US today, and I felt the need to bang the publicity drum for this marvellous little gem. It is a senastion in Britain (although, I have to say, I think only among people who are pretty adept at and interested in matters of punctuation anyway), and has completely turned around the fortunes of its publisher Profile, which went on to win small publisher of the year at the recent Nibbies. Its immense sucess has shocked everyone. Who would have thought that a small, pompous little book on punctuation would sell half a million copies and undergo god-knows how many reprints? Not me. And certainly not the author, her surprise and delight have been well-documented.

For anyone interested in punctuation, or the English langauge in any way, this is a must-read. It's only short; around 200 small pages. It's hilarious in a Bryson-esque way, and it's incredibly informative. Not only about the correct usages of certain much-abused punctuation marks, but on the history of the punctuation marks themselves, which i'd never have believed could be so interesting. She brings us information on the first recorded instances of various marks (semi-colon, for example), and the case of a man who was "hanged on a comma" (or, as Truss more accurately puts it, the case of the man who "tried to get off on a comma" but failed to succeed). And did you know that the word comma itself comes from Greek, meaning, "piece cut off"? I certainly didn't. It's quite a brilliant little book, ideal especially for those who lament the slipping standards of punctuation the world over. So, purchase it without ado! Ensure that it sees as great a sucess in America as it did (and still does) in Britain.

Now, in other areas... The focus of today's "Monday Interview" in The Guardian is Margaret Atwood. Every word I read about her just makes me adore her even more.

Although it grieves me to do it, I must also today admit to an occasion when I was wrong. Well, "misinformed". The Kellerman's have not collaborated on a book called Capital Crimes as amazon told me, but Double Homicide, and it will be a flip-book of novellas. Jonathan also has a new Petra Connor novel coming in November, called Twisted (recent short story collection by Jeffery Deaver, anyone?) That's going to bring his total this year up to three, carrying him into portentiously Pattersonesque waters.

Also, as Sarah has done it, I won't feel too guilty about doing it either. Talk about the Booker Prize, I mean. I've been intending to for a little while, waiting for a suitable opportunity. Firstly, may I draw your attention to the much-jazzed-up official Man Booker Prize website, which I am severely enamoured of. It's also now added a wonderful archive of all previous winners and nominees, which I spent a good two hours studying the other night. Now, I love the Booker Prize. Absolutely love it. You can already hear this year's potential entrants lumbering up to the start-line, and it's a fascinating spectacle. Personally, I would be incredibly surprised if David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas didn't reach the shortlist. It's pretty darn dense, but very good indeed. I'd also like to see The Maze by Panos Karnezis do very well, but I don't think I'll be satisfied. I thought it was excellent, but at times the fact that English wasn't his mother tongue seeped through in slightly curious sentences. Also, if Tobias Wolff's brilliant Old School managed to get shortlisted I would be so delighted that I'd remove much of my garmentation and do a little impromptu dance. Unfortuantely, that won't happen as it isn't even eligible.

Lastly, in an attempt to lessen my guilt that today I've hardly written a word about crime fiction, I'm at least going to offer something amusing. Again, though, it's not about crime fiction. It is about the Booker Prize (alright, the "Man" Booker Prize), though. This here is a wonderfully entertaining article about last year's prize, by John O' Farrell