A couple weeks ago, I was hanging around some of my favorite haunts (aka, all the wonderful thrift stores in my town) and picked up an original 1984 copy of The Transitive Vampire. It still had the dust cover on it, and the binding had not been cracked. In other words, brand spanking new, yet older than the college students I work with at my day job. 31 years old, to be exact. Let’s see…at 31, I was a mom and wife and working a full time day job and a part time evening job. Kind of like today. But I digress…
Why I didn’t have this book in my “writing books” collection, I am not sure. It should have been right there along with Eats, Shoots and Leaves and Bird by Bird. How could I resist buying this book at the thrift store? It was $2 on half-price day…what a bargain!
I’m going to digress again, here. Because when I brought this book home, along with lots of other goodies from the thrift store, it sat on the dining room table for the rest of the day. My husband saw it and said, “Transvestite Vampire?” I almost fell on the floor laughing. My husband is not much of a reader, and never a writer, as moving media is more his thing (television). He saw the first part of “Trans” and went from there. After I stopped giggling, I told him it was a book on writing. He wasn’t very impressed.
From a review by Thomas DePietro in 1985:
The deliberately offbeat examples that form the body of this whimsical handbook of grammar may delight readers who savor the postmodern fictions of Borges, Barth, and Barthelme. But these self-consciously hip sentences risk perpetuating what The Transitive Vampire tacitly acknowledges: many college-educated adults can’t parse a simple sentence.
Thirty years later, I think that is probably still true. I work with students in higher education every day, and I see it still. I know writing is somewhat of a talent, but it is also a skill, and needs to be practiced. I always say essays are easy for me. And that is true. I was born with the ability to take a small kernel of information and form an entire treatise around it. I can do it quickly, and I can do it over and over. I was that kid in college whose first year comp professor recognized as someone who needed to put in a bit more effort, so she gave me lots of C’s and D’s until I worked as hard on my essays as my classmates. I didn’t value her judgment of me at the time, but I do now. I needed to develop the innate talent I had to be an effective writer.
As soon as November is over (I’m still in the throes of writing my NaNoNovel), I’m going to be sinking my teeth into The Transitive Vampire. What a fun read this will be. I also need to finish How Not to Finish a Novel, which is pretty fun so far with some terrible examples of now NOT to write a novel.
And one more diversion before I go. How many of you are old enough to remember B. Dalton Books? Because this book has the original BD sticker on it, including the price. Talk abut walking back in time! I spent a lot of my paychecks in B. Dalton back in the day. Did you?
I’d love to hear your writing book suggestions in the comments. Or your memories of B. Dalton. Or your fabulous book store finds.