Fuse #8

Friday, February 09, 2007

Prolific Typos and Lucky's Scrotum

Horn Book editor Roger Sutton recently posted the following query on his blog regarding typos in new books: "should a review mention their presence in a book even when they are few or solitary?" I've often wondered this myself. It's rare, but once in a while I'll review a hardcover edition of a new book with multiple errors cropping up willy-nilly all over the place. Do I mention this in my review then? Is it even the author's fault?

An Australian author by the name of Lili Wilkinson had a rather nice point which I shall now quote here:
A two paragraph review of my first book spent one paragraph detailing a typo, what it was, what page it was on.

the other paragraph questioned that the word 'rape' was mentioned in the book, but not included in the glossary.

i would have preferred a negative review to a persnickety one.
So that was one debate. But read through the comments and suddenly there's a virtual flame war regarding Susan Patron's use of the word "scrotum" in The Higher Power of Lucky. Just out of curiosity, why does Roger's blog get all the attacks between commentators? I love you guys, but we should totally try to match him in peculiar rivalries over tiny topics. We could fake it, of course. MotherReader could say that the word "scrotum" is funny and J.L. Bell could counter that the word "ball-sack" is funnier (which it is) and it could descend into a mud-splattering free-for-all involving the invoking of various Norse gods and minor celebrities. How 'bout it? Y'all in?

Sidenote: You know how Washington Mutual is trying to earn some street cred by calling itself WaMu? Can I start calling Horn Book HoBo? Please? Pretty please?

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At 8:17 AM , Blogger Matt Holm said...

HoBoo, maybe?

At 9:06 AM , Blogger Chris said...

Put me down for cojones (even though it is not quite the same thing).

At 9:25 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps the end goal of a review - serving the reader - could provide some guidance. Do readers care about a single typo, or an entry missing from a glossary? Is it worth their time to even read about it? My guess is no. But should a book get published with copious blunders, look unprofessional, and compromise the reader's experience, they should hear about it.

Speaking of scrotums... did you hear the one about the Japanese tanooki suit? (Safe for work)

At 10:31 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the commenters on Roger's blog had it right, I think: "The use of this word is in keeping with Short Sammy's personality, and Lucky's confusion about the word and what it means does mirror her confusion about the adult world in general."

It also gives us a good view into Lucky's character and way of thinking, when she thinks that it sounds like something green that you cough up, that she is glad she doesn't have one herself, and that she both would like and would not like to see one.

It fits the book well, though I do see how it could make it more difficult to read in story hour. As one of the commenters pointed out, the author probably didn't write the book with story hour in mind.

I do think the age 9-11 range that's now being mentioned is more appropriate for this book than the 2nd grade and up I'd heard previously, but not primarily because of the use of the word 'scrotum'. It was interesting that one of the commenters said the author should've had the balls to just say balls - I think it would've been much less interesting.

If it isn't clear, I thought the book was terrific.

At 12:47 PM , Blogger Kelly said...

I also thought the use of scrotum was perfectly within character. And I can't believe it's caused such an uproar.

As someone who grew up in the California desert, albeit in a much larger town close to Palm Springs, I thought her desert characters were right on.

I'm also one of the ones who thought this book would be enjoyed by some second graders (7 and up). But I had independent reading in mind for sure. This one doesn't seem like a class read-along to me anyway.

At 1:07 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think my almost-7 first-grader would enjoy it, but that a couple of the themes would be slightly heavy for him. But next year I might feel differently.

At 2:46 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

In a certain light, any review that doesn't say "This book is a complete waste of time and paper" is good P.R. How many books go by without us even hearing or reading the title once? Too many.

At 6:07 PM , Blogger Brooke said...

When I first read "Lucky" and came to the scrotum passage, I couldn't help but heave a mighty groan. I didn't object to the word, but I knew that many, many other rather silly people would. And that I would have to hear from them at work.

These are the same people who object to Karla Kuskin's "The Philharmonic Gets Dressed" because it shows adults taking baths and putting on underwear.


At 12:48 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Newbery award a tiny topic? What a bunchy ninny you are!!!

At 3:56 AM , Blogger Barbara Bietz said...

I have enjoyed reading your blog, but this is my first post. I appreciate the discussion about typos in books. As a reviewer and author, I see both sides of the issue. If a typo is small, I will evaluate the book on the merit of the story. It would be unfair to harshly judge the author because of human error on the part of an editor. For the reader with an editor's eye, a minor typo can be found in many books. If there are multiple errors that distract from the story, it reflects poorly on the author, editor, and publisher. If it could not be overlooked, I would opt not to publish a review. An incorrectly spelled word is a much greater offense than an error in punctuation.

At 12:47 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

What about grammar? Ever shifting first to second person stuff? I've had issues with this in the past and it's never clear exactly who is to blame. Is it necessarily the author or once again the publisher's fault?

At 5:48 PM , Blogger Barbara Bietz said...

Good question! In my critique group, I am a stickler for point of view - but mistakes do slip through. In a final copy (not an ARC) it is the editor's unlimate responsibility. It can be hard for an author working closely on a manuscript since it is not unusual to hear "I think this manusciprt would be better in first person" during a critique. In the revision process, some mistakes are inevitable. What is your feeling about the use of "their" in a singular context - such as "a child must take their work home?" I know it is awkward to always say "his or hers," but I don't like the use of "their" in a singular context. Am I too fussy? Yikes!

At 12:12 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

On grammar: I've seen more and more instances of "could of" and "would of" in published books. We have to assume that the copy editor doesn't know that it's wrong, which is slightly scary. But we also have to assume that grammatical errors of this nature originated with the author.

As for HoBo -- I'm still chuckling over seeing the terms "Horn Book" and "street cred" in the same paragraph. In keeping with Horn Books' grand tradition, I propose that it just be known as "The Book."

At 9:42 PM , Blogger Barbara Bietz said...

As far as I am concerned, there is no excuse for "could of" and "should of." However,I am fine with "coulda" if it's in the dialogue.

At 11:11 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not entirely convinced that the dog should have been named LUCKY. The cognomen of Lucky seems entirely inappropriate to this canine's fate. The author on the other hand was "lucky" to have won the prestigious and coveted Newberry Award.


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