I recently had the pleasure of interviewing writer Lawrence Block on the Culture Crawl, who was in Iowa for a reading for the Metro Library Network's "Out Loud!" series. Block is the legendary crime fiction writer, winner of many Shamus & Edgar Awards (the Oscars of crime fiction), creator of the Matthew Scudder, Chip Harrison and Keller novel series. I'm a big fan.
(Pictured: Out Loud! coordinator Rob Cline, Lawrence Block and me)
I told him in the interview that in the first five pages of his latest book "Step By Step," a memoir that chronicles his life through the lens of his hobby, racewalking, that he did something no one has done for decades: Taught me a grammar rule I'd never heard before.
I'll quote from the book:
"My wife, Lynne, and I flew down to New Orleans on Friday. (Note, if you will, the commas before and after her name. The sentence would flow better without them, but they're there for a reason. They indicate that Lynne's my only wife. I referred earlier to my daughter Amy, and was able to do so without the bracketing commas, because she's one of three daughters. If I had only one daughter, I'd have to use the commas. If I didn't use them for Lynne, you'd have the right to accuse me of bigamy. Now, this is one of those linguistic niceties like, say, the subjunctive, that seem designed chiefly to make people who are aware of it feel good about themselves..."
I'd never heard that before, and am glad to now number myself among those who can feel good about themselves in the knowing.
And when I tell my wife, Debbie, about it; she will be, too.
Hear the full interview in the Podcasts area of kcck.org