Harvard Educational Review
  1. The Deluxe Transitive Vampire

    The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed

    By Karen Elizabeth Gordon

    New York: Pantheon Books, 1993. 175 pp. $22.00

    Can you explain what a subordinate clause is? Can you define a verbal? For those of us who somehow missed that series of grammar lessons in our formal schooling, The Deluxe Transitive Vampire by Karen Gordon is the ideal resource for catching up: it entertains as it educates in its quirky, gothic, bizarre, and distinctly adult way. Gordon has a flair for both language and teaching, and her clear, accessible, and precise explanations of grammar are complemented by scores of weird examples and arresting visuals. She uses angels, vampires, gargoyles, bats, and skeletons to illustrate, both literally and figuratively, the parts of speech and make the potentially difficult and boring subject of grammar come alive on the page and in the reader's mind.

    In this engaging book, Gordon explains just about everything you ever wanted to know about the grammar of the English language: sentence structure; nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions; transitive and intransitive verbs; infinitive, participles, and gerunds; subject-verb agreement; phrases and clauses; and fragments and run-ons. Gordon embellishes each of her explanations with many playful sentences that demonstrate her penchant for the strange. A few examples can provide a taste of Gordon's humor in The Deluxe Transitive Vampire:

    The baby vampire hurled his bottle at his nanny and screamed for type O instead. (p. 22)
    After the podiatrist had sanded her calluses, she clubbed him with her old soft shoe. (p. 49)
    The Lilliputian who was dressed in yellow silk sang to her flea in its cage. (p. 144)

    The Deluxe Transitive Vampire demystifies grammar in a unique way, and is recommended for any educator in search of a good book on the subject. Gordon's élan as a teacher and a grammarian makes The Deluxe Transitive Vampire a handbook that is fun to curl up with for a crash course on nonrestrictive clauses and the passive voice, as well as a resource on grammar that will serve as a handy reference for years to come.

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