1,2,3,4 IQ FACTS edited by Lloyd, Mitchinson and Harkin
PUBLISHED by FABER & FABER for a recommended $22.99
BETWEEN YOU AND ME by MARY NORRIS
TEXT PUBLISHING, MELBOURNE
Both these small books have explanatory sub-titles, though in the first instance, if you are a fan of Stephen Fry and his merry gang on the ABC television program, QI, you probably will not need any further information. The sub-title tells you that these facts will “leave you speechless” not that any member of those particular panels would ever be without a retort, usually witty.
Some of the facts chosen by the erudite editors are indeed startling. Here are a few examples: …..”The logo for the Royal New Zealand Air Force is the (flightless) kiwi”, “Until 1970, all pubs in Ireland closed on St Patrick’s Day”, “The face of the average man has 30,000 whiskers”, “One of the world’s biggest lift manufacturers is called Schlindler’s Lifts” and astonishingly “More people in the world have mobile phones than have flush toilets.” You can have endless fun with such a boo, and of course, that is why it has been produced. Just imagine a rather dull dinner party at which the host brings forth these QI facts. The tone of the party would lift immediately, and the host would definitely be voted the one with “the mostest.” The sub title on the second book under discussion is “confessions of a comma queen”. What does that mean exactly?
BETWEEN YOU AND ME is a memoir like no other. Mary Norris was a copy editor for the highly esteemed New Yorker. She so rarely made a mistake that her work became legendary with any writer submitting a manuscript to this world-famous magazine. In this short engaging book she tells the reader of her first job at the age of fifteen, when she was employed as a foot checker in a public swimming pool in Clevelan. What a difference. As we learn more of her working life, we also learn a great deal about language, its correct grammar, punctuation and usage. The author makes sure it is all told with humour, and with pithy anecdotes, to illustrate the point. There are notes and a fine index to help you along the way, so that you can find the very area which is perplexing you. The poor little wandering apostrophe is explained beautifully, as is the split infinitive. If you plaintively cry but I don’t know what an infinitive is, how will I know if I have split one? Never fear Mary Norris is on hand to lead you to the right path. This reviewer will have to confess to being pedantic about our wonderful language, so this confessional was an absolute delight. It would seem to me that if you were to invest in both these tiny volumes, you would be assured of having a most enjoyable time with them well into the future.