The Saturday Interview: Lynne Truss: Nation's Surprising New Comma-Tator

The Birmingham Post (England), July 10, 2004 | Go to article overview

The Saturday Interview: Lynne Truss: Nation's Surprising New Comma-Tator


Byline: Jo Ind

This time last year Lynne Truss was a freelance writer hiding in Brighton and worrying about whether she had enough money to support her cats, when - voila - out came her book on punctuation and she became rich, famous overnight (or so it seems to those of us who had never heard of her before).

Eats, Shoots and Leaves, The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation has sold 1.5 million copies, topped the bestsellers list for more than six months, and earned Lynne enough money to keep her cats in caviar for the rest of their nine lives; which is pretty amazing for any book but downright extraordinary for one which is about commas, apostrophes and semicolons.

In the little hard-backed book, which has been the talk of the literati, 49-yearold Lynne pulled off the stunning feat of making punctuation funny.

The self-conscious reader finds herself laughing out loud and then laughing all over again as she realises it is none other than hyphens and question marks that is making her chuckle.

Whether Lynne is writing novels, doing sports journalism, creating radio plays or penning a book on punctuation, her style is one of self-deprecating humour.

For those that appreciate her capacity to put herself down, her success is a little worrying. Will it suit her? Will she lose her literary voice? Can she continue to be self-deprecating when everyone around her is writing her up as a publishing phenomenon?

'Oh, I think so,' says Lynne, who is in Birmingham to promote the re-issuing of three of her previous novels and a collection of her journalism.

'It's linked to far deeper, personal things than that.' Phew!

'The things about success is that it's all in other people's terms, in a way. People ask me what it's like being famous and the only difference is that you have people asking you what it's like being famous.

'What IS strange about being successful is that your past is viewed in a different light; people think that you were a failure before.

'What I was doing before was a personal success. I was writing novels that had warm reviews and that sold a few thousand copies. I thought I was doing quite well.'

Nonetheless, Lynne would be the first to admit the success of Eats, Shoots and Leaves was such a surprise that she is still reeling in the after-shock.

She has described it as 'Un. Bloody. Believable.'

On reflection, she attributes its popularity to timing. She had written about being single in her book Making the Cat Laugh and about the work/life balance Going Loco before those subjects became the talk-pieces of the day. With Eats, Shoots and Leaves she hit on the issue of bad punctuation just as the wave of public concern was reaching its crest.

'It was an original kind of book,' she says. 'It was bringing together all kinds of different material into one book. It wasn't a style guide. It wasn't just about how to use punctuation. And it was funny.'

Being funny is an enormous pleasure to Lynne.

'Making people laugh is a great joy,' she says. 'I like doing radio comedy because you just sit around all afternoon laughing. I do have good times with laughter.'

Besides knowing she has made people laugh, what pleases Lynne most about the success of Eats, Shoots and Leaves is neither the fame nor the money. 'Two things made me cry,' she says. 'One was my old university offering me a fellowship, which is the sort of thing every swot dreams of.

'The other was my publisher offering to re-publish my back list so I had all my books out together.'

Lynne was brought up in a working class family in a council flat near Richmond in Surrey. Her father was in the army and her mother did clerical type jobs.

She passed her eleven plus, went to grammar school in Kingston, and then got a place to study English at University College, London.

'I was a bit of a poetry reader,' says Lynne, 'but I was quite normal in other ways. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Saturday Interview: Lynne Truss: Nation's Surprising New Comma-Tator
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.