Review: Norris’s Between You & Me

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen
Mary Norris

Grammar books generally come in two stripes – clever, and not very helpful and helpful, but not very clever. Between you and me is the book that proves the rule. It’s exceedingly clever (perhaps the best written book on writing well I’ve ever read) and also very useful.

We should expect nothing less from Mary Norris. She’s a copy editor in the most famous of copyediting shops – the New Yorker – and her book is sprinkled with wonderful stories about the magazine and the writers and editors who have worked there. If all this book consisted of was anecdotes about Eleanor Gould Packard and Lu Burke, it would be worth the price of admission. But there’s also scores of helpful tips on avoiding troublesome grammar mistakes (see the title), many of which I make every day, and really interesting thoughts on the relationship of the editor to the writer. I enjoyed this book immensely and I really hope Norris comes out with another volume.

Recommended.

Review: Sebold’s The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones
Alice Sebold

The plot of this one (young girl narrates her life and murder from heaven) put me off when I first heard it but, when many smart friends read, and loved it, I decided to give it a go. I am really glad I did. Seabold walks a fine line between cheesy and brilliant here. Dead child narrators are not an easy trick, and at times the book is a little purple. But purple or no, I couldn’t put it down. By turns manipulative and well written (the scene where the child narrates her own murder gave me chills, but I’m not sure why) this one is definitely worth a look if you can stomach child murder as plot point.

Recommended.