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Book Reviews: Of Punctuation and Bitter New Worlds

Updated on May 24, 2010

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

An excerpt from the book:

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

“Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“I’m a panda,” he says, at the door. “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

“Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

If someone had told me two weeks ago that it was possible to write a book about punctuation that anyone could read, enjoy, and that was hilarious, I would have laughed in their face! And yet, that is exactly what Lynne Truss has done in her break-through bestseller Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

From stickler-ish rants about signs in green-grocers’ windows selling “Carrot’s and Tomato’s”, and the almost uncontrollable desire to put the apostrophe in the title of the movie Two Weeks Notice, Ms. Truss’s (or should it be Truss’ – read it to find out) zany take on the alarming state of punctuation in the world today will leave you rolling on the floor laughing your ass off.

English teachers, editors, writers, and even regular people will enjoy Ms. Truss’s conversational tone, impeccable writing, and unabashed wit. Connoisseurs of language, students, and even the guy at the grocery store will devour this easy-to-read, enjoyable book, and will take from it a new respect for the history and purpose of punctuation – the road-signs of the written word.

Don’t miss this undeniably timely romp through the mind of the obsessive editor as you learn who invented italics, what an interrobang is, and which writers have obsessively defended AND denounced the use of punctuation. A must for anyone who reads or writes, make sure to pick up Eats, Shoots and Leaves and laugh while you learn.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

An excerpt from the book:

He feels the need to hear a human voice – a fully human voice, like his own. Sometimes he laughs like a hyena or roars like a lion – his idea of a hyena, his idea of a lion. He used to watch old DVDs of such creatures when he was a child: those animal-behaviour programs featuring copulation and growling and innards, and mothers licking their young. Why had he found them so reassuring?

Or he grunts and squeals like a pigoon, or howls like a wolvog: Aroo! Aroo! Sometimes in the dusk he runs up and down on the sand, flinging stones at the ocean and screaming, Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit! He feels better afterwards.

He stands up and raises his arms to stretch, and his sheet falls off. He looks down at his body with dismay: the grimy, bug-bitten skin, the salt-and-pepper tufts of hair, the thickening yellow toenails. Naked as the day he was born, not that he can remember a thing about that. So many crucial events take place behind people’s backs, when they aren’t in a position to watch: birth and death, for instance. And the temporary oblivion of sex.

Ms. Atwood, author of The Blind Assassin and The Handmaid’s Tale, wows yet again with her strange (and strangely poignant) Oryx and Crake. She creates a post-apocalyptic world in which children play with the very building blocks of life the way children nowadays play Nintendo: a world of strange animal combinations; of viruses that turn the body into bloody foam; where sexuality and apathy and government control are rampant.

Snowman – distraught, the last of the human species - watches over a brood of human-like creatures called Crakers, since they were created in a lab by Crake, his former best friend. Slowly losing his grip on sanity, Snowman recalls the twisted and terrifying events that lead to the destruction of mankind, his own unfulfilled longing for the beautiful and mysterious Oryx, and his relationship with the frighteningly intelligent Crake, who becomes a god for the species of perfected humanoids he created.

Unabashed, succinct, and brutal, Ms. Atwood takes humankind’s present curiosity and amazing technological advancements to one logical – and disturbing – conclusion. Commenting on the dichotomy between the poor and the elite, the slippery slope of burgeoning and overwhelming (and destructive) sexuality, as well as government control and the ethical problems of genetic tampering, Ms. Atwood sucks you into a universe that might be the one next door, and asks the question that many today would like to avoid: Are we destroying ourselves?

A must-read for any lover of the dystopian, Ms. Atwood’s Oryx and Crake is sure to keep you turning pages and dreaming the dreams of the disturbed for years to come.


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    • mythbuster profile image

      mythbuster 7 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      I'm off to find these books! I love the Panda story ROTFLMAO! Great laughs - nice hub, TheGlassSpider.

    • blake4d profile image

      Blake Ford Hall 7 years ago from Now Rising Out of Phoenix Arizona Earthlings

      You should try more book reviews GS. I like this hub a lot from you, hope you are doing well. Keep on Hubbing. Blake4d

    • TheGlassSpider profile image

      TheGlassSpider 7 years ago from On The Web

      Thank you, Izzy! I really had fun with this challenge and surprised myself. I didn't think I could crank it out like this!

      I do hope you'll grab these; they are excellent and certainly worth prime time on anyone's shelf.

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      I've actually never heard of either book, living this sheltered and unnatural life here in Spain among strangers, but hey I want to read them now!

      You have done a wonderful job of describing these books in what is no doubt their best light,and to do so in only half an hour is awesome! WTG!

    • TheGlassSpider profile image

      TheGlassSpider 7 years ago from On The Web

      @MrPopo: I'm glad you enjoyed the hub! I LOVE these two books, that's why it was so easy to write about them. If you're anything like me, if you pick them up, you'll read them in a matter of a few days.

      @ Run Down Battery: Nice to "meet" you. Thanks for stopping by; I'm glad you enjoyed the hub!

      @Faybe: These books were right on top of my mind, since I *just* finished them. No worries about your exclamation points, I love them!!! At some point, once you learn the rules, punctuation becomes stylistic rather than simply rule-driven - and if you mean them, then that's what they're there for! Thank you so much for your kind words and rating up. I'm glad you enjoyed the Hub!

    • Faybe Bay profile image

      Faye Constantino 7 years ago from Florida

      I never heard of this book, but I am always worried about my punctuation. Looks like I will have to pick it up. This was great! I can hardly believe you did this on the instant challenge! You are a wizard with words! Rating you up, and awesome!

      (Oohh probably overuse of exclamation points. I have heard that's a punctuation sin. Hope I will be forgiven, I meant every one of them.)

    • Run Down Battery profile image

      Run Down Battery 7 years ago from UK

      just excellent

    • mrpopo profile image

      mrpopo 7 years ago from Canada

      My, I just noticed I didn't comment on yours, Spider!

      That would be a shame. This was a great Hub. I've heard of Eats, Shoots and Leaves and I think that would be a lovely read. Oryx and Crake also seems to be very intriguing. Both are great recommendations.

      Thanks for the wonderful Hub, and a job well done, TGS!

    • TheGlassSpider profile image

      TheGlassSpider 7 years ago from On The Web

      LOL Shades: We're two peas in a punctuation pod!! I couldn't agree more, I hope I can get the word out to more people that this is such an accessible and enjoyable book. I'm glad you enjoyed the Hub. This 30 minute challenge is a great idea!

      @Cags: Is it longer? Maybe I type like a whirlwind and don't know it. I'm glad you enjoyed this Hub...I really think you will enjoy Glasser's work; you remind me of him (and I have a great deal of respect for him and his theory - I intend to use it in my counseling practice).

    • Cagsil profile image

      Cagsil 7 years ago from USA or America

      Hey Spider, you did a great job on your hub too. You fit a lot into this one. Btw-- I think your hub is longer than mine. ;) And, as you to your question on my hub, I have not heard of that person you spoke of nor have I read his work. But, I will have to look into it. Thank you for that and a great hub review. :)

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      Hah!!!! No wonder we get a long so well. I LOVED this book. I actually got an edition that had comma stickers and semicolons stickers etc., and we were encouraged to stick them on signs and stuff that needed them. ROFL

      You could not be more on it about this book. The great tragedy of this thing is that it's... well... a fricking grammar book... so who doesn't blow it off outside of grammar geeks like us? (Um, everyone?)

      But you're so right about the conversational tone, and, well, it's just funny, and, it really looks at stuff like the difference between American and British English, and lots of stuff that, on the surface seems boring, and beneath that surface we all go "yeah, I should learn that" but then beneath that surface we all go, "but I'm not going to because it would be boring."

      So, people need to get that it's FUNNY and a GREAT read so skip the tiers of surface and just go read it. It's a fast read anyway.

      (nice contribution to this, Spider!!!!)