CHRONICLE: Almost back on the reading calendar thanks to the little book


In case anyone is wondering, and I hope anyone is, I’m doing better on my goal of reading one book a week in 2022.

I had fallen behind, but now I’m almost on time. We are 18 weeks into 2022. I have read 16 books. Not bad.

A few easy books helped me get back almost on schedule, including “Chenango County,” a small book of just 72 pages with lots of pictures, which I read in one sitting, but I call it a book.

There are 22 chapters. Every Chenango County town historian has written a chapter. It was to celebrate the county’s bicentenary in 1998.

I was surprised by the chapter on Otselic. There is no mention of Grace Brown, who was from there.

Chester Gillette, who went to the electric chair in 1908, was convicted of murdering Grace Brown at Big Moose Lake. It made national news and even all these years later people were interested in the case, the greatest thing ever seen in Otselic.

One book that slowed me down was “Maybe,” by Lillian Hellman. I had a hard time reading the memoirs.

I bought “Maybe” because I was intrigued by the title. Maybe what? I’m still not sure.

Another reason to buy the book was that Lillian Hellman was from New Orleans, a city I enjoy, and was quite the character in a city full of characters. And she moved to upstate New York and lived with Dashiell Hammett, a great writer of private detective books, including “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Thin Man.”

Once I knocked on the door of the building manager at 891 Post Street in San Francisco.

I wanted to see where the great Dashiell Hammett had lived and worked. The manager told me to leave or call the police.

Hellman and Hammett were very heavy drinkers. Alas, I shouldn’t have used the word “very” in the previous sentence. This according to another book I finished on my goal of reading 52 books or more by 2022.

“Dreyer’s English”, written by Benjamin Dreyer, Random House’s copy editor, is “an entirely decent guide to clarity and style”. He advises writers to avoid using words such as “very” and “in fact” and “in fact” and “really”.

Oh, and Dreyer had something to say about Hellman on page 217: “Playwright, screenwriter, memoirist, of whom writer Mary McCarthy once commented, ‘Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and the “.

Hellman filed a complaint. Dreyer added, “wouldn’t you?” He also points out that there is only one n in Hellman. “Hellmann’s, with two n’s, is a brand of mayonnaise.”

Dreyer, in the same chapter, points out numerous errors made by writers with names, including the pseudonym of William Sydney Porter. It’s O. Henry, not O’Henry.

“The candy bar is ‘Oh Henry! “”And” was not, as many believe, named after baseball player Henry Louis ‘Hank’ Aaron.”

And there is “tenant” and “principle”. As Dreyer writes, one is a rent payer and the other is a belief, a principle.

Don’t even make Dreyer talk about “it’s” and “it’s”, which are also my pet peeves.

Right now I’m reading “Life is Messy” by Matthew Kelly. This sentence jumped out at me: “No one’s life happens as they expect.”

The other day I was thinking the exact same thing.

I’ll have to consult Dreyer on whether the “very” above is permissible.

Either way, as the musician Frank Zappa once said, “so many books, so little time.”


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