Sunday, October 19, 2008

Swans Reflecting Elephants

A few months ago, whilst browsing about the Jamsil Kyobo Book Center, I saw they had Stephen King's Duma Key in hardcover. I bought it. (That same day, somebody jumped off a bridge spanning the Han, and I'd like to think the two occurrences were unrelated. I'd like to.) I read it. Or, rather, the first 70 or so pages; because, boy, that's one heavy book, and -- please believe me when I say I'm being 100% genuine -- holding it in my hands hurt my wrists so much that I could barely swing my bat in the shower the next morning.

So I gave up on the book for a time, always planning to pick it up again, but never really wanting to. Reading, Constant Retard, is synonymous with comfort (unless you're attending high school).

Enter: Today. After a night of pool*, vodka, THE BEST CHICKEN WRAPS I'VE EVER HAD THE PLEASURE OF TONGUE FUCKING**, and shaving cream, I ventured into the Bundang Kyobo Book Center with one goal in mind: find Duma Key in paperback.

Mission: successful. Ice cream: cold.

Book in hand and rationalizing my purchase by thinking, "I've bought It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back four times in various forms of media, and I own more than a few pairs of blue jeans," I hopped on the Green Line, during the commute reading what promises to be King's best novel ever about a 50-year-old guy from Minnesota who loses his arm in a construction accident and relocates to south Florida. But, just as the book's protagonist, Edgar Freemantle, has a phantom itch after having his right arm amputated, so too do I have a gnawing, irksome annoyance.

Listen, I'm guilty of making mistakes in grammar, spelling, and punctuation from time to time -- the most blatant of which, if you you check the PK archives, Bruce, is my embarrassing habit of placing punctuation outside of quotation marks*** -- but there are some mistakes that I'm unwilling to turn a blind eye to.

Sorry: There are some mistakes to which I'm unwilling to turn a blind eye.

See, King, God bless him, repeatedly writes "for awhile" rather than the grammatically correct "for a while." He did this as well in Blaze, and perhaps in many of his other books. Blaze was the first one I noticed it in, and I chalked the error up to King writing in a loose style to reflect the brain-damaged protagonist's narrative. The same might be said for the brain-damaged protagonist of Duma Key, but I don't think so.

No, what I believe is that King doesn't know the grammatical correctness between "stay awhile" and "stay for a while." That's all fine and dandy, but the man has editors and proofreaders, right? I suppose it's different for a bestselling author, but I'd get called on the carpet for something like that.

I suppose that, in this case, the writer, editor, and proofreaders share the blame (the paperback has some god-awfully omitted words in places), and I also realize my work as an editor has made me hypersensitive to writing mistakes both blatant and subtle (blatant: "everyday" written to indicate daily; subtle: using a space after an ellipsis), but I'm genuinely surprised that a novel published by one of the largest American publishing companies and written by one of America's last few writing celebrities would let such an error slip past.

Mostly, though, I'm confused. I'm all for making the English language more comprehensible, but if the price to pay is reducing such a beautiful language to the simple, ugly written word used these days by the ignorant and uneducated, count me out.

(And, trust me, I recognize the irony.)

I'm getting older, but not stupider, thankfully.

Update: Okay, now I'm getting kinda pissed. I read another 30 pages this evening before going to my Pilates class, and I encountered a "what on earth?" You live on it, so capitalize that fucker.

* deserves its own post...that I'll never write

** deserves its own post that I probably will write, right after this one

*** or, if we're talking speech, my retarded use of the word "instinctually" during the last PKast. Of course the word I was searching for was "instinctively." But you already knew that.

No comments: