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The Grammarian Was A Sadist

By James DiGiovana

July 14, 1997:  TAKING AS GOOD advice Roland Barthes' bon mot, "The Marquis de Sade's sentences...are so pure they might be used as grammatical models," Derek Pell has produced what appears to be a textbook from a twisted porno version of an English boy's boarding school. In fact, this would be an ordinary and quite useful reference book if it weren't for the example sentences:

"Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding 's. Thus write: 'Charles's battered paramour. Lady Burns's lacerations. The monk's testicles."

"When a quotation is followed by an attributive phrase, the comma is enclosed within the quotation marks. Thus: 'On your knees,' the monk said to me."

There are also sadistic definitions for such important terms as "enormity," "student body," and "split infinitive." This is followed by a few words of advice to aspiring writers, such as, "Do not explain too much...follow this example: "Two nights later I slept with Jerome; I shall not describe his horrors to you; they were still more terrifying."

While this terribly slim volume is amusing, it also offers real and useful advice that more than a few writers would do well to heed.




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