The book this post features—and therefore this post—is not safe for kids or work…

The Elements of F*cking StyleThe book this post features—and therefore this post—is not safe for kids. It’s also not safe for work.

The book’s about invaluable subject matter: grammar and punctuation. But it’s delivered in a far-from-the-traditionally-dry fashion.

Penned by Chris Baker and Jacob Hansen, the co-authors of a similarly entitled blog The F*cking Word of the Day, The Elements of F*cking Style book delivers style tips through accessible, sass-filled language and dirty—and therefore eminently memorable—examples.

As a writer and editor who spends a good portion of her time trying to commit grammar and punctuation rules to memory and then apply them with some authority and consistency*, this book taught me moar useful stuff than all the manuals currently lining my shelves combined. As Baker and Hansen point out, the guides we use (and continue to inflict on ourselves and others) are woefully outdated.

For example, seminal text The Elements of Style, which has sold more copies than Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code collectively, was first published in 1918. That was, they note, a time when words such as ‘gay’ had entirely different meanings from which they do today. Yet the manual hasn’t been overly updated to reflect our new era’s meanings and our less formal, more interactive means of engaging with texts.

You may not have a taste for trucker talk as I do, but Elements of F*cking Style is undeniably unforgettable. Which is precisely the point. As Baker and Hansen note, it’s easier to recite lines from Pulp Fiction than from King Lear. I’ll choose memorable over I might be offended every single time.

The book is slimline, meaning it’s both concise and less intimidating than the tome-like style guides we’re familiar with. I wish it existed when I was starting out. And I wish university courses, schools, and beyond would make it required reading, conservative, easily offended lobby groups be damned.

The Elements of F*cking Style features fantastic subject headings/areas, including ‘Commas are f*cking fun’, ‘Words Your Bound to F&ck Up’, ‘A colon is more than an organ that gets cancer’, and ‘Use strong, definite language in your writing. Make that sentence your b*tch’.

Most of the examples provided by the authors aren’t safe for publication on a family friendly blog such as this, so I’ll stick to mentioning a few of the more neutral ones. This includes the advice to get someone else to proofread your work for you as ‘even the clinically insane make sense to themselves’. Or this one:

Reading a paragraph that jumps from past to present and back again is a f*cking drain, isn’t it? As a reader it’s difficult to read a paragraph like this and not be p*ssed off at the writer. Couldn’t he or she keep it together for a few goddamned sentences?

My favourite part, though, is the end where Baker and Hansen write: ‘Holy sh*t, you made it to the end of a book about f*cking grammar.’ It’s a fair call, but after patting myself on the back, I considered that the real heroes are Baker and Hansen for making the book so easy to read I’d made it to the end before I realised.

Sure, I’m a writer and editor and this is the kind of book I should reach the end of. But have I ever read more than the specific entry I need, much less then book it its entirety, of any other grammar guide?

I’ve done that with precisely zero. Based on the grammar crimes committed daily in text messages and on social media, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say the number of non-word-nerd people who’ve actually read a style manual is equally low.

‘Grammar isn’t a sexy subject,’ Baker and Hansen write in their introduction. With that, I’d wholeheartedly agree. But with Elements of F*cking Style they’ve at least made explanations of it and its complicated quirks clear and helpful. This is definitely going to be the go-to guide for me when I next need a refresher (or when people as for a recommendation for where to learn our language’s finer points). And with Christmas around the corner, this may be appearing in a few people’s stockings…

 

*And I’m bound to have mucked something up in this here post—I’m human, I’m tired, I don’t have someone with fresh eyes currently available to proofread my work. If you spot a typo or some punctuation or grammar ineptitude by me, please feel free to flag it in the comments below.

Review – The Damned Utd by David Peace

9780571224333I have tried and failed at reading David Peace before. I’ve have always wanted to get into his books in particular The Red Riding Quartet (which I cheated and watched the films instead, which were superb). For some reason I have never been able to get into the rhythm of his writing and with a writer like David Peace if you don’t have the rhythm you are lost.

A couple of readers, who I really respect their taste, have been going nuts for David Peace’s Red Or Dead and with it being World Cup time I decided I would check out one of David Peace’s football novels.

I have been attempting to get into poetry this year and one of the ways I have found that has made poetry most accessible to me as a reader has been via audio. A poem read aloud brings the words to life which sadly I am unable to do reading them. So when I spotted an audio version of The Damned United I jumped at the opportunity to listen to it. (The fact it was read by John Simm from Life On Mars was icing on the cake.)

9780571239139From the opening lines I was entranced. David Peace is utterly hypnotic. The repetition, the short, sharp visceral use of language had me utterly enthralled. It was like a chant that just swept me up into the turmoil that was the life of football manager Brian Clough.

Brian Clough became manager of Leeds United in 1974 and only lasted 44 days in the job. Peace tells the story of his tumultuous 44 days in charge interspersed with flashback to Clough’s early days as a football manager and the success (and havoc) he wrought up until landing the Leeds United job.

This was one of those absolutely amazing book experiences. David Peace’s novels are often described as streams of consciousness but after listening to The Damned United I would describe his work more as verse novels. The imagery he conjurors, the sounds and atmosphere he recreates through words is my definition of poetry. I’m going to listen to as many of his novels on audio now that I can find and wish to the book gods that someone records an audio version of Red Or Dead (or maybe have a crack at it myself to see if I now have David Peace’s rhythm).

Buy the book here…

Buy the audio book here…..