Eats, Shoots, and Leaves does Ms Manners

Lynn Truss, the author of the acclaimed Eats, Shoots, and Leaves is interviewed in the New York Times about her new book, Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door. The interviewer, Deborah Solomon, does a marvelous job capturing the uniqueness that is Truss, but without fawning all over her. In fact, you come away with the feeling that Ms. Solomon was a bit bewildered by Truss, and after reading the interview you can understand why.

In her new book Truss takes on an impolite society, though she admits she’s focusing more on Britain than all of the English-speaking place as a whole. (Should that have had a comma?) The Times links to the first chapter of both her books, so you can see what wonderful wit she has, though her second book is more in the nature of a humorist essay than a how-to. (Was that dash correct?)

As for the author herself, it’s odd but she strikes me as the type to read this type of book and then toss it aside as so much rubbish. Which, if you think on it, will probably make this a good book. (Should I have used a semi-colon? How about the use of ‘will’–too passive?)

My favorite scene from the interview was when Truss autographs one of her novels for Solomon, who then is walking about Brighton and happens to run into an American author, Michael Cunningham, on tour for his newest book. She chats with him, mentions who she’s interviewing and then shows him the book she’s given including the inscription. It reads:

With all best wishes, Lynne Truss.

What follows is classic literature. The author, Cunningham:

…ripped the page from its spine, crumpled it into a ball and popped it into his mouth. He stood there chewing it, as if it were a piece of tough meat, perhaps realizing for the first time that paper is not easily pulverized.

“I don’t know what came over me,” he said a few moments later, after he had removed the page from his mouth. “The inscription was so bland and generic, all I could think of to do is rip it out. She had just talked to someone for four hours, someone who had come from another continent. Writing is her business. She can come up with something a little more exciting.”

Sometimes I think the price of fame, or an attempt at fame, is that you have to invent yourself as a persona and then lock yourself into it for all time. So from this moment on Truss is the woman who writes on punctuation and manners (and all this invokes in one mentally), which means she must turn on the telly to watch cricket when interviewed and have elderly cats; while Cunningham is the type of rips pages out of books and then attempts to eat them because the writing is so offensive. Before either was well known, I imagine both would think the behaviors daft.

Regardless, it’s an accomplished interview, and the first chapters of both books are a good, fun, and innocuous Sunday read. (Was/were there too many commas in that sentence?) The only quibble I had is Solomon’s classification of the return of the shrew as exemplified by Truss and others, such as Anne Robinson from the BBC. I, for one, have never equated this behavior–blunt, mercilessly witty, irascible, and a scold –with being a woman. In fact, the closest you’ll come to ‘shrew’ in weblogging, in my opinion, is the now long gone Mark Pilgrim; the second closest is Joe Clark–and this is a compliment to both, as I consider ‘shrew’ to a good thing if Truss is considered one. (Too many dashes? Not enough?)

I haven’t read Eats, Shoots, and Leaves and should check it out at the library. I’ll have to hold on Talk to the Hand… for a time afterwards, as I have a feeling a little Truss goes a long way.

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3 Responses to Eats, Shoots, and Leaves does Ms Manners

  1. Phil says:

    I have a feeling a little Truss goes a long way.

    In the days before blogging I used to collect funny newspaper columnists (and TV reviewers, often much the same thing). There aren’t very many who are consistently witty and intelligent (and funny), and some of the best aren’t as well known as they should be. Lynne Truss used to be one of the best, and I was very pleased to see her hit the big time with ES&L. I’m not sure I could stand to read it all the way through, though.

  2. Dave Kearns says:

    I have read ES&L – twice. But neither time did I read so much as whole chapters at a sitting. It’s a book to be savored in small morsels. I have hinted (very strongly) to my wife that “Talk To The Hand” would make an excellent Christmas present…

    -dave

  3. Joe Clark says:

    I don’t think you’re praising me with faint damnation. I think you’re doing the converse. I don’t like being called a shrew. Among many other things, the term is gender-specific and I am not that gender. And that’s just for starters.