Friday, August 24, 2007
A remarkable bird is the pelican...
I've grown accustomed to receiving notes from nitpicky readers. These are the ones that typically go something like: "Enjoyed your last book, but on page 47, when Zack is talking to Barbara Pickering, he says 'The wombats can go with you and I.' It should be 'The wombats can go with you and me,' since 'with' is a preposition and ..."
While I appreciate the crusade for good grammar, some folks just have way too much time on their hands.
But every now and then a reader comes forth with a legitimate bone to pick. Such was the case the other day when a friend of mine, Wendy Ahl, asked me to meet her dad, Bill Weller, for a cup of coffee and sign some copies of BERMUDA SCHWARTZ. Bill visits Bermuda often and wanted to give the books to some friends on an upcoming visit. So we sit down at Palmano's, my favorite coffee shop, and Bill begins by saying: "You know, I really enjoyed your book, but on page ..."
Oh no, I thought, here we go. The grammar police strike again.
But not this time. Bill flipped to page 132, pointed to the fourth paragraph and said: "Read that." The section in question takes place when Zack and Boggy have driven down the coast of Bermuda, to Tucker's Town, and are standing on a bluff where the squirrely Brewster Trimmingham, who has stolen $2 million from Zack, wants to build a bunch of condos. Zack looks down on a cove with gorgeous water where sea fans wave atop coral heads and "Pelicans dive bomb schools of fish."
"OK," I said after reading the passage. "So what?"
Bill Weller smiled.
"There are no pelicans in Bermuda," he said. "Every now and then, one might get blown way off course, but there are no pelicans in Bermuda."
These are the moments that drive writers nuts. You do your research on the big stuff (in this case, the history of Bermuda, shipwrecks, money laundering, the search for the True Cross, etc.) and then someone pulls the rug out from under you on an ornithological slip-up. I have since conducted some independent research regarding pelicans in Bermuda (yes, maybe I'm the one with too much time on my hands) and have discovered that there are eight species of pelicans worlwide and two of them, the white pelican and the brown pelican, "occur" in Bermuda. But apparently they do not occur in such great numbers that a bunch of them would gather in a cove and dive-bomb schools of fish.
I'll take it like a man. Mea culpa, mea culpa ...
And I offer this rendition of a famous poem:
A remarkable bird is the pelican
Its beak holds more than its belican
It can store in its beak
Enough food for a week
But in Bermuda? No way in helican.