Read a very pretty book for review this weekend - The Bedside Book of Birds: An Avian Miscellany. Full of lovely Audubon-y type pictures and texts from a great splayed range of sources, from Ovid to Bruce Goddamn Chatwin. Man, do I love Bruce Chatwin. Judging by the sheer quantity of his books filling up my shelves I suppose I must like Paul Theroux better, but Bruce Chatwin - anyways, that's a blogasm for another day.
It was put together by a Canadian author called Graeme Gibson, who I've never read. As a rule I liked CanLit but I stopped reading it when I left for Europe the first time, back in 2001. I'd got so sick of Douglas Copeland and everything Margaret Atwood wrote that wasn't short stories (her short stories are very good) that I wasn't willing to extend myself to find or order new Canadian books. Stupid of me. Like rejecting BritLit just because Martin Amis is a fucking ponce. I'll dip my toes back in soon but I don't think it will be with Graeme Gibson's books. Apparently in 1996 he decided he wouldn't be writing any more novels and that makes me suspect he wasn't getting much out of the form.
And I don't like his sentences in the introductions he wrote for each section of the birdie book. He has this one pair of sentences - the violent dislike I have for it is so far up my ass that obviously this won't be anywhere near the real review, but I dislike it violently nonetheless, especially as it concludes a section and is therefore unignorable:
"It's we who have made the cages. It's we who must open them."
First of all, I'm nearly certain you need the object pronoun there and the singular form of 'have' - that is, 'It is us who has made the cages' - because the plural 'we' isn't the subject of the second clause: the singular first clause, 'it is us', is the subject of the second clause. I think that's the underlying, emotional reason for my dislike. I taught English for three and a half years and when Anglophones use sloppy grammar to create a needlessly complex construction it gets my fucking goat. There are millions of people struggling to learn the ridiculous intricacies of our ridiculous language, often for pressing economic reasons. Why fuck it up further in confusing ways? Grammar is a series of signposts and landmarks to the people learning the language so I react a little bit violently when our intelligentsia doesn't play by its rules.
In any case, why not just write "We made the cages. We must open them."?
Anyways, none of this nonsense will be in the real review, which will be glowing. It's really a very good book. Good selections - you run across some old friends and meet a bunch of new ones that you decide you'll have to meet up with in the future. I haven't looked at Casanova before but I will now, after his funny story about the loose woman and the parrot. I recommend it.