May 25, 2006

Damn the Ellipses, Full Speed Ahead

I spent Tuesday in a day-long seminar on disproportionate enjoyment of this kind of pedantry assures me that yep, I am meant to be in this writing business. Plural possessives! Initialisms versus acronyms! (Which was new to me, oddly, despite a military background.) Restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses! Hyphens and n-dashes and m-dashes, oh my.

Imagine the Hotel Monaco ballroom filled with 80 editors sipping a lot of coffee and giggling over this example of poor comma placement: "I'd like to thank my parents, Jesus and Ayn Rand."

During my lunch break I slipped away to Sushi-Go-Round in Chinatown. It's an odd variant on "fast food" where the sushi chefs continually fix dishes (2 pcs nigiri, 3 pcs maki, a scoop of seaweed salad) that are then sent out on a rotating counter the length of the room. The dishes are color-coded for price ($2 for spicy tuna, $4 for octopus nigiri), and you grab what you want to assemble a meal. Reminds me of picking plastic ducks out of a carnival pool, where the color of their bellies determined your prize. I suppose not-contracting salmonella is a good start, as prizes go.

Just in case you were wondering: It is the theory of the Editor of Copy Editor (and I tend to agree) that in the long run, "they" will become an acceptable way to refer back to the singular antecedents of "he or she." There is simply no singular general-neutral pronoun in American English, and the language is going to fill that hole whether we like it or not. We wince at it now because we're right in the middle of the transition--but Britain changed over long ago. After all, once upon a time we gave up "thou" for the singular "you," didn't we?

Last night: the Riverby Books reading series "A Space Inside," hosted by the lovely Miss Monica Jacobe, and starring another favorite, up-and-coming DC fiction writer Alex MacLennan. Alex has been all over the place lately, thanks to the fresh talent evident in THE ZOOKEEPER. His very fetching author headshot doesn't hurt either. Alyson Books did a great job with cover design, though the transformation of "Laurel," a main character, to "Lauren"--as misspelled on the back-- was a bit of a blow. Alex has taken it in stride. Back in yonder days, he was my Fiction Editor at Folio, so I'll get to say I Knew Him When. It's a fantastic reading series--the bookstore is an unknown treasure, authors pace themselves well, and there's plenty of wine and hobnobbing afterwards. Check it out in June, when the reader is friend and poet Natalie Illum.

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