Top positive review
59 people found this helpful
on October 30, 2002
In an essay from her collection Mama Makes Up Her Mind, Bailey White describes how she learned to get children to read. Teach them that they can find out really nasty, tragic things from books. Because despite what adults would like to believe, kids love that stuff. How else to explain the publishing phenomena of Goosebumps and Lemony Snicket.
Karen Gordon seems to be using a similar tactic on the teaching of sentence structure with her book, The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed. (Now, that's a title.)
In her introduction, Gordon states that she knows what "a dangerous game I'm playing" by illustrating the rules of grammar via "a menage of revolving lunatics kidnapped into this book." However, she persuades that by following their stories, we will "be beguiled into compliance with the rules, however confounding those rules may appear to be." She's right. This is absolutely the most fun I've had reading a grammar primer. The rules are written simply enough; this book's charm lies in its illustrative sentences--wonderful, gothic examples of subject and predicate, adjective and adverb, dependent and independent clauses. Sentences giving examples of a subject include:
The persona non grata was rebuked.
His huge, calm, intelligent hands wrestled with her confusion of lace.
She goes on to give examples of nouns: Person (eavesdropper, ruffian, Peter Lorre), Place (Aix-en-Provence, Omsk, Mars), and Thing (marzipan, scum, haunch); as well participles and gerunds. This is a thorough look at all the rules necessary for proper communication. The examples make for curious reading, and when the sentences are captioning the numerous classical paintings and woodcuts scattered throughout, often provoke a laugh.
Such as the simple picture of a lady's hand, with the legend "The hand that is languishing on the windowsill once was mine" (restrictive adjective clause); or the painting of the nude which illustrates the separation of independent clauses with a semi-colon and reads, "She wrapped herself up in an enigma; there was no other way to keep warm."
We need to know how to use this language we have, and use it well. And while we're relearning the proper usages, why not have fun doing it? Karen Gordon thinks we should. As the final sentence in the book states: "You must beckon the transitive vampire to your bedside and submit to his kisses thirstily."
Now that's a well-constructed sentence.