Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time by Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson

I couldn't read travel books for a month without at least one American road trip. Deck gets the idea to form the Typo Eradication Advancement League and travel around the U.S. with a friend or two fixing mistakes on signs. This book was a natural for me—when it came out people were telling me about it. I guess I seem like the type who'd go around the country correcting grammar and spelling errors.* At least I complain about them regularly; my pet peeves are its/it's and your/you're.

The road trip is entertaining for the most part, though I've read more engaging travelogues. Fortunately the authors do not include every correction they made, instead trying to stick to the most illustrative ones. Surprisingly, the most interesting parts are where Deck reflects on the evolution of language. It becomes a sort of existential crisis that I did not expect. In that respect, it is the best kind of road trip: one that brings the travelers back to someplace different from where they started, metaphorically speaking.

Overall, unfortunately, The Great Typo Hunt falls a bit flat. The book is written in an overwrought, heroic, righteous tone that starts out amusing but can become annoying. Though the premise appeals to me, this isn't much of a travel memoir. Most of it could have just as well occurred on the streets of one city. This is underscored by a lesson the authors learn: people make the same errors everywhere (oh well, I guess somebody had to drive around the country to figure that out). Also the writers don't give much detail about the things they see aside from the typos; it all seems to pass by too quickly. A grammar freak/scold will like this book, but someone looking for a vicarious vacation may be disappointed.

* At one time I might have, but I guess I've grown too cynical about making any kind of difference in the world to bother. And I could never write a book like this—the pressure not to publish any mistakes would be unbearable. Just omitting a one-letter word in Biking Illinois devastated me, and I am probably the only person in the world who expected that book to be perfect (my only solace was in finding the error myself before someone else pointed it out). 


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