Wretched Writing: A Compendium of Crimes Against the English Language

Kathryn Petras, Author, Ross Petras, Author
Ross Petras and Kathryn Petras. Perigree, $15 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-399-15924-4
Reviewed on: 06/24/2013
Release date: 08/06/2013
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The Petrases (Unusually Stupid Americans), a brother-and-sister team, dig deep in this entertaining and cringe-inducing collection of overwrought passages taken from various sources published from the 19th century to the present. The book is arranged by alleged literary crime (“colorful language, excessive,” “food imagery, bad,” “metaphors, confusing”), and the authors mercilessly skewer bad writing and offer plenty of examples. Some cases are simply confusing (“She sat huddled in a chair, covering her ears with crossed legs”) while others more readily appall (“He smiles down at her nipple, which is brown as a bar of Belgian chocolate”). There are the pathetic sex scenes (“He held her breasts in his hands. Oddly, he thought, the lower one might be larger”—written by Scooter Libby), awful book titles (Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers), and embarrassingly bad attempts at dialect (“Yassuh, A spose we caint keep dese ressavations,” from Ian Fleming’s Live and Let Die). Readers may be surprised to see authors like Danielle Steel, Glenn Beck, and Michael Crichton among the offenders, proving the authors’ point that no one is above making the occasional error. It all adds up to a terrifically guilty pleasure for readers (and writers). (Aug.)
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