31 July 2012

Diamonds on the soles of her shoes

I had never realised that Bruce Tulloh was a pioneer (of the modern era, of course) of barefoot running, or  about his running across America, until I read this interesting article about him. But what particularly impressed me about the piece was the reference to the "souls of his feet". The feet of only the very greatest runners, presumably, have souls.

At least I could laugh at that while simultaneously groaning at the appalling standards of English among professional writers or publishers. Usually I just get irritated. The other day I began reading The Thread by Victoria Hislop, our book club's chosen work this month, and I had barely got started before I read something about sewerage flowing into the sea. An inability to tell the difference between sewage and sewerage can, I suppose, land you in deep ... well, better not to go there. Presumably Mrs Hislop is reasonably content to pay a water company for sewerage, but would be unlikely to spend good money on sewage.

It was, I thought at first, like finding a fly in a bowl of soup: it ruins one's enjoyment. But that wasn't quite right, because one would certainly not proceed to eat the rest of the soup even after the fly were removed: so finding a piece of grit in the bowl might be a better analogy. Once it has been dealt with, the remaining soup is perfectly acceptable (unless there's another piece of grit, or a fly, in it) but one is unlikely to enjoy it. I read no further. Had I bought the book myself, I would have been tempted to rescind the contract on the grounds that it was not of satisfactory quality.

This has happened with several book club choices recently. The Hare with the Amber Eyes was distressingly full of errors, and Mr Rosenblum's List used wrong words, mixed American and British English ("airplane" and "aeroplane") and committed other sins that should have been picked up by the publisher. Indeed, my own experience suggests that they may even have been introduced by the publisher ... At any rate, there is no excuse when a professional writer and a professional publisher contrive to get it wrong, no excuse whatsoever.

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