Torn Wings and Faux Pas by Karen Elizabeth Gordon
I hated grammar in grade school and high school. Grammar was all about learning rules, but many of the rules seem to have more than two exceptions and are therefore very tenuous rules at best. I seemed generally to get by as a writer on sound alone and to not worry too much about looking like an idiot if I violated one “rule” or another. During my second-to-last semester in college, I took a grammar course. In some ways it was more of a philosophy of grammar course. We learned about the history of the English language and about how it is continually changing. Rules aren’t rules at all, but guidelines to clarity. This time, grammar’s guidelines finally made more sense to me. I started to care more about what guidelines I was wildly diverging from.
To keep grammar fresh in my mind, I read a grammar book every-so-often. My favorite is Karen Elizabeth Gordon’s The Deluxe Transitive Vampire. While Torn Wings and Faux Pas tries to be a companion to Transitive Vampire, it doesn’t really succeed.
The pieces are there. Gordon uses Gothic Victorian examples, baroque explanations, and slightly creepy clip art, but this time the quirkiness is too much. The explanations are sometimes not clear and the examples are too ornate for the mistakes and corrections to be clear. (I think I had this problem with Transitive Vampire too, but to a much lesser degree.) There are some additional “characters,” fictional grammar specialists, that don’t add much other than exhausting paragraphs of prose. And the clip art is more along the line of doodles than the wood-cut demonic putti of Transitive Vampire.
In the end, I did learn one or two things and was reminded of a few others. Unfortunately if I hadn’t read it straight through, and instead dipping in and out of it, I probably would have missed those things.