Monday, January 28, 2013

To E.K.: You've Got A Problem

I'm a reader, a reader, I might add, who hasn't yet surrendered to the electronic revolution and the kindleization of the book world. As such, I do a lot of book buying in second hand stores where I can pick up books at bargain prices.

Unfortunately, you never know what kind of surprises await you inside a second hand book. For example, a few weeks back, I purchased a novel by Elizabeth George at the Hospice store. I had never read any of Ms. George's novels but I was familiar with her character, Inspector Lindley, through the British TV series that airs stateside on PBS. It wasn't until I started reading it that I realized the book reeked of cigarette smoke. Since I had bought the book at the hospice store, it didn't take a detective to figure out the fate of the previous owner. Luckily, or unluckily, I subsequently bought a second book by Ms. George which turned out to be the very same novel. So, I switched to the non-smokers edition in midstream.

This brings me to another book I recently bought, a John Lescroart “Dismas Hardy” novel. I've long been a fan of this series and didn't recognize the title, The Suspect, as one I had read. It sat on my shelf for a month or so while I worked my way through my queue of unread books, then, yesterday, upon finishing a Karin Slaughter novel, I picked it up.

It starts off with a man sitting by a mountain lake, fly rod in hand, waiting for dusk when the trout should start rising to feed on the mosquitoes. Being a person who has done his fair share of trout fishing, in streams and in lakes, I was immediately hooked.

I sailed through the first chapter, but on the second page of chapter 2 I was stopped by someone's errant scribble over a piece of dialog. The dialog read, "We've got a place at Echo Lake, up by South Tahoe. I was there for the weekend." Someone, and I'm assuming it was E.K. since she was kind enough and proud enough of her handiwork to initial the front free page, had put a line through the “ve got” and written above it in ballpoint pen "have."

Weird, I thought that someone would think that the "got" was something that had to be corrected, especially, since it occurred in dialog which should mimic everyday speech regardless of it's violations to the rules of proper grammar.

I read on, only to discover that every single “got” in the entire book, all occurring in dialog, had been crossed out, sometimes in pencil, sometimes in pen, by D.K. In another piece of dialog the speaker used the word "snuck" which she had transformed to “sneaked.”

The pages were peppered with these corrections and they were becoming increasingly distracting because every time I came across one my mind went off course and injected the comment, "She's nuts." I say "she" only because the scrawl appeared to be feminine. And I doubt a man could be so hell-bent on extinguishing these expressions from ordinary speech. If she had been a mother, I can see her spending a great deal of time correcting her children's language, as had her mother before her. But, you shouldn't spend your time correcting the speech of characters in a novel. And, if you somehow have been entertaining the notion that you are correcting the author John Lescroart's errors, you are simply out of your mind. Dialog is and should be full of colloquialisms. That's what makes it sound true to life.

In closing, I realize that, since I bought this book at the Hospice Store, E.K. could have, by now, succumbed to whatever was ailing her. But, if perchance she has not, here's a message for her:

E.K., you've got a problem.

Obsessively compulsive, E.K., that's what you are. Congers up images of continuous hand washing and freaky folks who roll their own feces into little balls. I've checked the book for brown smudges and shitty finger prints. It's relatively clean. Thank God, it's a good novel and I'd hate to have to throw it out.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

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