Just Above Sunset
November 28, 2004 -That's using the old loaf!
November 28, 2004
By Bob Patterson
That’s using the old loaf! (That’s Cockney
rhyming slang that means, “That’s using your head.”)
In the age when Internet
pages are available simultaneously to the readers in England, Australia, and the United States, publishing a book in the English
language should be a relatively easy endeavor. It should; but don’t bet
A case in point would be
Francis Wheen’s new book, titled How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions (£ 7.99 [not €?] Paperback Perennial [That translates into $14.62] published October 4, 2004)
It is available in the
US as Idiot Proof: Deluded Celebrities, Irrational Power Brokers, Media Morons, and
the Erosion of Common Sense ($25 Hardcover Public Affairs, published June 1, 2004) in the United States.
The two different titles
are not the only difference - the index was changed. In Great Britain, the index
was a remarkable achievement that got Martin Ince in the New Scientist to call it “the index of the year,” but
for the American audience, it was changed to a much more inferior version.
Apparently this Guardian
columnist chap, Francis Wheen, has a weird hypothesis about the possibility that modern thinking is retreating from the Enlightenment
values back to a Middle Ages religious based way of looking at things. [Editor's Note: see November 28, 2004 - The Triumph of Idealism in this issue.]
Author Wheen goes off on
a Don Quixote search for evidence leaving some skeptics scratching their heads and wondering if he wouldn’t be better
off looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. Apparently he thinks the
world has gone downhill since the Ayatollah Khomeini, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan all came to power at approximately
the same point in time and that they caused a change in world history.
His attempt at international
intellectual mind manipulation has spawned at least 22 reviews including the Complete Review’s complete review
that assessed the effort as “entertaining” and linked their online readers to other critical evaluations.
You might think that prose
in English is English prose (the old “a prose is a prose is a prose” deal) and that shouldn’t present any
problems, but you’d be wrong. There are two very different styles of editing
in each country. None of the commentary on the two books delved into that thorny
problem. Apparently neither the America nor the British way of thinking applies
“down under” and that complicates editing matters even more. Last
year a collection of the best horror stories (Gathering the Bones) from England,
the United States, and Australia was published and each of the regional editors, Ramsey Cambell in Great Britain, Dennis Etchison
in the USA, and Jack Dann in Australia, had to edit the book for the edition published in their country, according to a reliable
They had to regionalize
the thinking on such arcane matters as putting a question mark inside or outside the quotation marks if the quote isn’t
a question but is contained in a sentence that is. An example would be: Did Abraham Lincoln say: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”? American editors would have it end like this:
“ . . . country?” It’s
become a concrete example of the old adage: “different punctuation strokes for different folks.”
The reviewers of the Wheen
work castigated the inferior American index but apparently ignored the thorny issue raised by the likelihood of regionalized
[While we were fact checking
the particulars for this week’s Book Wrangler, we noticed that one particularly well known online bookseller was offering
a special combo deal for those who might want to buy (what apparently was) the same book with the two different regional titles
The Book Wrangler hasn’t
read the Wheen book yet, but until we see if we can find a copy at the Santa Monica Public Library, we can only pray that
the Lord will lift the veil of confusion and doubt from that Brit’s mind and help him to see the light and put him on
the path to righteous thinking.
What will happen if he doesn’t change his mind? Will his sequel be some convoluted thinking tracing the responsibility for the Abu Ghraib prison debacle back to a memo from Thomas de Torquemada?
On a lighter note, we will
supply some gift suggestions for possible use during the current one-month consumer book-buying blitz.
The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker edited by
Robert Mankoff with a forward by David Remnick ($60 Hardcover - Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, published October 5,
2004) is 656 pages with 2,004 cartoons from the famous weekly magazine augmented by two CD’s that contain the complete
collection. This volume should be a great (and rather heavy) stocking stuffer
for humor fans this holiday.
Playboy: 50 Years: The Cartoons by Hugh M. Hefner ($50 Chronicle Books) should also please the cartoon connoisseurs. The best were selected for inclusion in this retrospective collection.
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