Sunday, 17 February 2008


Over on Bookseller Crow’s blog there’s a mention of Joyce Carol Dates (as a Picador cover once spelt her). Easily done. Orphan Pamuk didn’t quite make it into the shops. Lovely mess when the back cover of the filmscript of Trainspotting, referring to the ‘heroin-addicted’ character of Mark Renton, mistakenly printed him as the journalist Alex Renton.

My copy of Cozarinsky’s The Moldavian Pimp lists his previous book as ‘The Bridge from Odessa’. Less transportable, I’d have thought, than the original ‘Bride’. Ted Hughes once published a book titled ‘A Dancer to God’; in one of his later books, this is listed as ‘A Danger to God’. These are the sort of errors that a proofreader corrects only reluctantly. I can imagine others: Dostoevsky, Grime and Punishment; Dickens, Great Expectorations; Elizabeth Bowen, The Horse in Paris.

I once let pass without query (in a biography of Liszt, since you ask) a sentence in which someone was described as feeling ‘as if they were clamped between a mermaid’s legs’ – unimprovably ridiculous. But just occasionally, I know that feeling.


Conor Joyce said...

Dear Mr. Boyle,
my elder brother Paul has had doubts since childhood - he is now 50 - about the first sentence in Conrad's The Secret Agent, in fact, he has been sure and I have had younger brother doubts. Could you please give me a expert second opinion on this or, rather, as you are clearly a professional in these matters and we are not, a first opinion? Paul thinks he knows, and I know I think, that the office is looking after his brother-in-law. No doubt you have the book on your shelves as you sound like a well-shelved gentleman but just in case you don't or to save you the effort of reaching up for it, the sentence runs: "Mr Verloc, going out in the morning, left his shop nominally in charge of his brother-in-law".

I look forward to hearing from you,

Yours Sincerely,

Conor Joyce

charles said...

OK, Mr Joyce, a 'the' has been elided, and I'd prefer that it hadn't; but it doesn't trouble me, and it may have been idiomatic at the time, I don't know. This isn't quite analogous, but English people look out of the window, Americans look out the window, and both seem fine to me. - Charles

wendy said...

As an aficionado of reference books on the English language, perhaps I could offer the following snippet from Fowler's Modern English Usage:

'The phr. "in charge (of)" is used both actively and passively; e.g. to leave children "in charge of" a nurse, or a nurse "in charge of" the children. The latter is the more recent use' (OED).

Mr Fowler (or his editor) goes on to say: 'The first now seems to be less commonly used than it was at the beginning of the 20c. It has been widely replaced by "in the charge of", i.e. with "the" inserted.'

Thus Conrad's usage is of his time, rather than of ours.

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