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Minor Elements of Style

This is not a review of Blankets. This is my first foray into Team Comix, sort of. Let’s say I think kids should be reading more comics. Hell, kids should read more of anything, right? So I’d be really happy that the ALA has cited Craig Thompson’s Blankets as one of the best Young Adult books of 2003. And I am happy. Sort of.

It’s not because I don’t think Blankets is something teenagers should be reading. If anything, at least the not-so-new elements of the story may still hit home with them. Instead, it’s the typos. If I’m going in for comics boosterism, I’m willing to say that while I agreed with Jim Henley and Eve Tushnet that it was a lovely book with inadequate content, it wasn’t awful and I can see why the people who love it do so.

But it really bothered me that there were major misspelled words and grammatical errors, since this isn’t a question of a proofreader somewhere not catching errors introduced to the copy. In an interview at the Suicide Girls site, Thompson responded to a question about whether he’d worked with an editor:

CT: Not at all. At least with my publisher the setup is a lot more causal than the publishing industry. To some extent that’s a perk but there was no editorial input. Even the spelling mistakes I caught myself with the help of a couple of friends.

I can’t quite avoid snarky comments about whether they caught the errors and decided to leave them in, but why is this the best setup for proofreading a 600-page work? Sure, small publishers can’t afford to provide hands-on editors, but can they afford to put out flawed work? In this case, at least, the answer is Yes, since even librarians don’t have a problem with it. But I have a problem. I’m not fully comfortable saying, “This is literature! Give it to your children!” when I’m embarrassed about amateurish errors. And certainly this isn’t true just in Blankets, but is much more widespread.

It doesn’t even really bother me that Craig Thompson, like many people, says “inferred” when he means “implied” in casual conversation, but it bothers me that no one’s there to stop him from doing it in his published comics. He’s making art objects that people want to buy and hang on their walls with errors immortalized. And I’m picking on Craig Thompson because he’s well-known and much-lauded. Plenty of lesser comics are much worse. Plenty aren’t.

I don’t know what I’m advocating. I’m not going to boycott books because of their grammar, nor will I read excellently spelled books I don’t like. Jen Hachigian has done her part with a series of Pocket Editor minicomics. I guess I’ll just continue to appreciate spending money on small press creators who manage to make good comics with good grammar and feel annoyed with and betrayed by the ones who don’t. We deserve better. I do, at least.


  1. John Jakala says:

    Rose -

    Do you have any specific examples from the work off the top of your head? I’m embarrassed that I didn’t catch any errors, so now I’m going to have to dig out my copy when I get home.

    — 2 March 2004 at 7:48 pm (Permalink)