Tuesday, March 10, 2015

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

What a delightful book! It's as if someone took my favorite genre (memoir) and made it about my favorite topic (grammar). Could a book be any more tailor made for me? Luckily, it held up to my expectations.

Mary Norris didn't always intend to be an editor. In fact, after college she worked at a costume rental store, as a milkman, and as a cheese packer. Then she decided to move to New York, and through a family friend, she found a job at The New Yorker. Never could there have been a more perfect fit. Where else could Mary have had lengthy and serious discussions about hyphens, attended a party for a particular brand of pencil, and gotten fan mail from Phillip Roth? Interspersed between her personal stories, she includes digressions about apostrophes, who/whom, and curse words, but she's not too pedantic or precious (in fact, she admits to disagreeing with The New Yorker's style rules on a couple of points.) I even think I might now have mastered when to insert (or not) a comma in a series of adjectives (although restrictive clauses still just escape me.)

Ms. Norris's writing is accessible, humorous, and charming. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with her and I actually would have loved if the book had been twice as long!

I got this book for free from ABA's Winter Institute, with no expectation of a review.

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