The idea for A Grammatical
Affair came to me
began using a character named Lester
in my columns that were appearing in the
Minneapolis Star Tribune
and other newspapers.
Part essay, memoir, novel, writing handbook, and
poetry, this genre-bending book defies easy categorization, but I believe
it falls within the genre of literary nonfiction as well as it falls
anywhere. To my knowledge, nothing else
like it has been written.
handbooks use humor and anecdote to engage the reader – from Strunk &
White’s The Elements of Style to Karen Elizabeth Gordon’s The
Transitive Vampire, Patricia O’Connor’s Woe is I, Constance
Hale’s Sin and Syntax, Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves,
and Stephen King’s On Writing – but none incorporates fully
developed narrative and characters.
The narrator’s search for meaning in this absurdist
tragicomedy follows the fictional/nonfictional life of an English major
turned newspaper columnist devoted to ridding the world of misplaced
commas, noun stacks, and dangling participles, a man perplexed by the
existential question of how language at once illuminates and creates its
own reality. Torn between love for family and passion for writing, the
narrator is confronted by his wife Juliet when she finds a used eraser
beneath their bed sheets and realizes he has been writing in bed. Thus,
the book’s title.
To create adventure in his life, the narrator teams up with
Josephine (who goes by Joe), a Kentucky horse trainer whose life is
forever changed by a two-paragraph story about poverty, mice, and fathers
in Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street. Together the
narrator and Joe dream of the day when their black stallion, Dangling
Participle, will bring them fame and fortune. Whether sailing Bart
Sutter’s stormy sweetwater sea or presenting a paper in M.F.K. Fisher’s
Aix-en-Provence titled “Lake Wobegon:
Mythical Place and the American Imagination” (subsequently published in
the narrator seeks to capture the spirit of place in both natural and
unnatural settings, where language presents
herself as a beautiful, seductive, green-eyed woman who challenges his
assumptions about grammar, syntax, and meaning.
My manuscript is now on submission. Wish me luck. And let me know if you'd like me to send you a