How to ruin a good read
The columns I write are usually recommendations, not book reviews. What’s the difference, you ask?I believe a book review owes the audience an opinion, good or bad, with reasons on the book in question. In these columns, however, I don’t recommend material that I don’t like, so you usually won’t even see bad material mentioned. And, if I run into an extended ration of bad stuff, it might be awhile between articles.As a case in point, in one of the books I stumbled over five misspelled words in the first 100 pages, along with numerous incorrect words choices (“their” instead of “they’re,” “to” instead of “too,” etc.). Syntax and grammar errors were numerous. The story, regardless of any other artistic merit, was ruined for me by the lousy mechanics in its presentation, and I stopped reading and pitched it into the trash. Although I had been a good student in high school, I flunked the first 12 papers in English class, and my midterm grade was an F. My parents were not amused. (As a result of this class and something called Calculus, 46 percent of my freshman class flunked out of the Big U. To the best of my knowledge, no one had their tuition and fees refunded – talk about cost effective education.)So why did I share this painful moment of personal history? Rhetoric 101 had a list of rules, two of which I follow. 1) Each misspelled word lowers the final grade on the paper one full letter grade.2) Each error in basic grammar lowers the final grade on the paper one full letter grade.The other rules were similar in that they all punished violations of the mechanics of the English language.As payback for the stress caused to me by Rhet 101 in that formative year, I now apply the same rules when I read material produced today by those who claim to write professionally – books, magazines, newspapers, etc. It doesn’t take much to turn your “A” material into trash with mistakes.Having said all that, I’m pleased to announce that I did read a book last week that I can recommend – “Skinny Dip” by Carl Hiaasen.Those of you who have followed these articles know that I save the Florida books, as I call them, for the nasty, cold, cabin-fever season here in the High Country when I at least need to read and fantasize about adventure and grisly humor with plenty of sand, surf and bare, tan skin.My favorite authors of this genre are James W. Hall, Randy Wayne White, Tim Dorsey and Carl Hiaasen. “Skinny Dip” was published last summer, but I held off reading it until February, because, well, I knew I would need a shot of escapism about this time of year.Hiaasen always fits the bill, and, looking over the list of his works, I see that I’ve read most of the fiction he’s published. I enjoyed all of them and can recommend Hiaasen to you without hesitation. And the nice thing is that his books are in the Summit County libraries. Regardless of what you’re heard, having a SCL Library Card is the real definition of a “local.” So what’s in your wallet?
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