Not dead yet.

Sorry for the dearth around here, but it’s been a challenging week — the internet connection went out for 36 hours, and I started my re-entry at work, which means most of what I think about these days involves how to force a return without an indent in Quark (it’s shift/return, if you’re taking notes). Yesterday my next-desk neighbor and I discussed, at some length, whether “special-education teacher” should have a hyphen. I contended it should, which is why I just used one now. Adjectival phrases take hyphens! This is something I feel very strongly about! And now that it’s my job, I see myself penning 2,500-word essays on the topic in this very space.

Ha. Kidding. Besides, someone else thought of it first.

But now I’m home, in the cool gloom of my living room. It’s gloomy because I think it’s gonna rain, the way it’s rained 39 of the last 40 days, or something like that. We left Fort Wayne last August, one month after a summer flood some described as “freakish.” We arrived in June, in the midst of minor summer flooding, again caused by rainfall. Maybe not so freakish. (Alex has more on this.) Every day since we returned, it’s rained at least a little, and some of them have been cloudbursts where it came down so fast and hard it threatened to wash the paint off the house.

Monday, at the library, I heard a man moaning that parts of the city were flooding, “and still you see kids outside playin’ in the puddles. It’s like they don’t know we’re havin’ a disaster.”

No, they probably don’t. When you’re nine years old, a puddle’s a puddle and a flooded basement is not yet a disaster.

Since my broadband’s been down — aren’t you glad people no longer say they “broke down on the Information Superhighway” when this happens? — I haven’t even been able to comb the world for linkylicious linkage for you to follow. But! I have analog media to recommend, so y’all listen up.

I think, a few times in the last few years, I’ve pointed you to a Hank Stuever story in the WashPost. He’s my fave WashPost Style writer, and I’m almost over my all-consuming jealousy that one of his editors is the great Henry Allen. (I took a writing workshop with the great Henry Allen when I was young and impressionable, and it messed with my mind in a big way.) Well. One lesson of the internet is this: People Google their names, and sometimes they find you, and if you’re really lucky, sometimes they send you just-published collections of their journalism.

I’ve hardly minded the 36-hour internet interruptions, because I’ve been reading Hank Stuever essays and reportage on such topics as molded-resin chairs, discount funeral homes, a modern wedding and, of course, the famous Evil Queens piece.

Don’t just take it from me because I got a free copy due to my shameless sucking-up: This is a wonderful book. Buy two!

P.S. The great Henry Allen sent me his book, too, after that writing workshop, held when young Hank Stuever was still playing with Star Wars figurines. Oh my, but I loved Fool’s Mercy too. Current Amazon sales rank: 1,569,914. Well, it’s been a long time.


Posted at 6:03 pm in Uncategorized |

14 responses to “Not dead yet.”

  1. Dave Reilly said on June 16, 2004 at 6:36 pm

    There’s no hyphen.

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  2. deb said on June 16, 2004 at 6:40 pm

    yes, there is.

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  3. Nance said on June 16, 2004 at 7:54 pm

    Deb’s right. “Bob majored in special education” — no hyphen. “Bob is a special-education teacher” takes a hyphen, because “special-education” is an adjectival phrase modifying “teacher.”

    Your mileage, and stylebook, may vary. My creative-writing teacher at Michigan blanched at the idea of dropping the last comma before “and” in a series, where just seeing one in a piece of writing drove me nuts. “Bob went to the market and bought peaches, plums, apples, and oranges.” Ugh. Why not just erect a big ROADBLOCK, you know?

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  4. jcb said on June 16, 2004 at 9:19 pm

    This is the zenith of what the blog comment system is all about. This is what makes all the hours of configuring this mess of Perl and CGI all worthwhile, to witness three clever and literate people thrash back and forth on the precisely most exacting niggly no kidding use of a–well, I call it a dash because the other name brings up impure thoughts.

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  5. deb said on June 16, 2004 at 9:25 pm

    you know what, though, nance? use of the serial comma is all over the place in publishing. some organizations insist on it, while others avoid it like the plague. whenever i take a freelance writing or editing job, one of the first questions i ask is, “do you use the serial comma?” about one in five actually know what that is. and these are the people who decide whether i get work or not, and how much i get paid. i ask you.

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  6. Dave Reilly said on June 16, 2004 at 9:41 pm

    Nope. No hyphen.

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  7. Nance said on June 16, 2004 at 9:48 pm

    Some of our most lively class discussions covered style issues. The teacher liked some of my usage examples, particularly the tricky further/farther question, which an editor crystallized for me one night by saying, “I can drive your car farther down the road, but you drive me further toward the brink of insanity.”

    But my faves were the horrors of UPI style, a holdover from the space-saving days of lead type — “cigaret,” “employe,” etc.

    This I believe:

    That numbers above nine should be written as figures, and this means you, The New Yorker.

    That no one knows what a “vacuum bottle” is.

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  8. Colleen said on June 16, 2004 at 11:28 pm

    RE: the flood–talked with someone who has lived in Woodhurst for 40+ years. Flooded twice…last year and now.

    Somethin’ ain’t right….

    And I’m getting tired of flooded bike paths and a neighborhood that smells like sewage.

    Oh. Yeah. Welcome back!

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  9. vince said on June 16, 2004 at 11:44 pm

    I’m having a 3.5 degrees of separation experience here.

    I’ve known Kevin since the age of 4.

    Recently, Kevin introduced me to Mary.

    I know Nancy. (and love her, btw)

    Nancy loves Hank Steuver (his writing.)

    Get ready now…. there is relevance here, I promise…

    Hank is Mary’s Brother!

    Doesn’t it just make you shiver?

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  10. Michael G said on June 17, 2004 at 8:59 am

    I’m agnostic on the hyphen but, like Nance, I can’t stand the serial comma. Nance, you note some examples of UPI style. I grew up in “the Chicagoland Area” and still remember the Trib and its idiosyncratic use of English. They still that way?

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  11. alex said on June 17, 2004 at 9:56 am

    The Trib eased up�ever since it broke the printer’s union in the late ’70s. The old ways were the legacy of hot lead typesetting, where every last little character space mattered hugely.

    I actually worked at a publishing company that still did some hot lead in the ’80s. The union still had them by the balls and so they phased out hot lead by attrition.

    They weren’t about saving character spaces, though. They were meticulous when it came to style. Compound adjectives were always hyphenated. As for serial commas, either way was acceptable�as long as it was absolutely consistent throughout a publication.

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  12. cc said on June 17, 2004 at 10:38 am

    Does anal-retentive have a hyphen?????

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  13. alex said on June 17, 2004 at 11:01 am

    Only when it precedes a noun like “middle manager” (which would be unhyphenated).

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  14. Bob said on June 17, 2004 at 3:55 pm

    “Gay men have all either dated an Evil Queen …”

    Yes, I’ve dated one. He was my first boyfriend, when I was young and dumb (before I became old and stupid). I endured about a year of verbal, emotional and physical abuse, and then ended it when he came home drunk and tried to start beating on me again. You can’t imagine the catharsis in beating the shit out of an abuser and then kicking him down a flight of stairs!

    I now have the misfortune of having one for a youngest brother. He’s tried everything in his power, including filing false charges against me with the prosecutor’s office, to get me out of the way so he can steal our mom’s money, and he’ll never let up so long as he lives. Because of Mom, I can’t resort to what gave me such catharsis before.

    In real life, there’s no glamor or cachet to Evil Queens. I think we should put them all in a cage and let them battle it out until only one survives, and then strangle him.

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