Dashing past summer: I have so many books on my summer reading list that I've started my fall one already. Book Expo America is the big book industry trade show, when publishers show booksellers what books will be available next season. Post–Book Expo, I've got a nice half-dozen titles I'm craving. And a grammar item, of course. On my list: NW, Zadie Smith; In Sunlight and Shadow, Mark Helprin; Telegraph Avenue, Michael Chabon, Phantom, Jo Nesbo; Sutton, J. R. Moehringer; Sweet Tooth, Ian McEwan.
Every year I attend Book Expo with horror and glee: Horror at spending time in New York City's fearsome Javits Center, one of the most, ahem, peculiar (dare I say repellent? I do!) trade show convention centers in the world, and glee at hauling home lots of galleys, or ARCs, as they are now called: Advance Reader Copies. This year was no different. I emerged post–Book Expo with a long list of big fiction titles I can barely wait to read.
NW, by Zadie Smith, is a nice fat novel set in London. I was lucky enough to hear Zadie talk about it at an author breakfast, where she spoke on how London is character in itself in any book, with its mix of demotic and high-flown language and neighborhoods. She mentioned the "thinginess" of people and Virginia Woolf's talent at expressing that, as elements that shape Smith's own writing, and I would have to agree.
Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon, is about race in America, and California, and a used record store; Sutton, discussed by the author J. R. Moehringer (also author of the fabulous The Tender Bar ) is about Charlie Sutton, at one time America's most famous bank robber and a resident of New York City, a city that's as much a character as London. Moehringer is a spellbinding speaker on his books and about writing, and the story of how his research and his mother intersected in the Capitol Records lobby was amazing.
I'm absolutely drooling to read the new Helprin. I couldn't get an ARC; they were gone from the Random House book at the show by 9:15 a.m. (And the show didn't open til 9 a.m.!) Perhaps a bit of networking with other reviewers and industry folk is in order. . . .
I would go on about the other books, but there's time for that, I hope, as they appear on websites and bookshelves throughout the fall.
That's the post–Book Expo buzz I'm feeling, and it's a welcome reinvigoration of my love for fiction. And for en dashes! You may notice that this: post-BEA and this post–BEA are just barely, but noticeably different.
How so? A hyphen is a bit shorter than an en dash. En dashes are used between numerals in an index, and between prefixes or suffixes and two-word compound proper nouns. Yes, that's where they go. Not between any old two-word common noun, mind you, but only proper nouns. (Proper nouns are the ones that are capitalized; they start with an upper-case letter. Think Civil War, Book Expo, Las Vegas; pre–Civil War, pre–Book Expo, Las Vegas–style.)
Such minute gradations! Such attention to the length of marks, to the size and style of letterforms . . . these are the sorts of things that a certain type of precise mind, a certain type of bookworm, adores.
When I taught grammar and punctuation classes at the New School, I would occasionally run into an eager student so besotted with this new knowledge of en dashes that en dashes would start appearing everywhere in his or her work. And I mean, at work. One student, a young editor, got a stern talking to from his copy chief when he went a bit en-dash happy.
For, as it turns out, like so much in our gorgeous, multifaceted language, there is no one universally accepted style for hyphens and en dashes, any more than there is one for the length of sentences or the length of novels. There is a prevailing, or recommended style, but some places and people follow it while others do not.
What a beautiful thing are many voices. And that's what Book Expo, for all its faults and joys, celebrates.
Want to keep up with my reviews and all of Barnes & Noble’s exclusive reviews, author interviews, videos, promotions, and more? Please follow us on Twitter: @BNBuzz!
Ellen Scordato has 25 years' book publishing experience as an editor, copy editor, proofreader, and managing editor. She's now a partner in The Stonesong Press, a nonfiction book producer and agency. In addition to her work at Stonesong, Ellen has taught grammar, punctuation, and style at the New School for more than 12 years in the English Language Studies department and taught English as a Second Language at Cabrini Immigrant Services and the College of Mount Saint Vincent Language Institute.
You must be a registered user to add a comment here. If you've already registered, please log in. If you haven't registered yet, please register and log in.