Monday, February 08, 2010

Modern-day cultural illiteracy

In keeping with my intention to read books new to me instead of returning to favorites of the past, I've been making good use of the library, having just finished reading a novel that has received fine reviews, A Gate at the Stairs, by Lorrie Moore. It's intelligent and has a narrative that is quite a page-turner, but I find it sad that even Knopf doesn't do a good job of copy-editing. It's not that I was taking notes, but here are oddities that I can recall off the top of my head: "alium" for "allium," "bannick" for "Brannock" foot-measuring device, "Stengel" sugar bowl for "Stangl," and no evidence of knowledge that the principal tenses of a certain verb are "smite, smote, and smitten." Even comic books get that last one right. "Stangl" is prounced as though it were "Stengel," it's true. This is the somewhat clunky pottery of red clay with clear glaze allowing that color to show on the backs of the pieces, and very free-hand decoration complete with sgraffito embellishments permitting the red clay to show through in places on the front of pieces. This was available in hardware stores and was very eaily broken or chipped, so I'd guess that not much survives in fine condition.


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