Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Reader's Diary #802- Randy Freeman: Stories From Yellowknife

In the forward to Randy Freeman's Stories From Yellowknife, he gives credit to his "bother Barry" for doing the illustrations. Stories From Yellowknife, as you may have figured, is self-published.

It's unfortunate to have a typo put you on guard right from the start.

To his credit, the stories contained within are mostly entertaining enough, and otherwise sufficiently well written, so that the typos don't distract much from the book. I'll get to the stories first, but I'll have to get back to those pesky mistakes later.

Stories From Yellowknife takes a look at Yellowknife history mostly from a character by character basis. Gold thieves, game-show contestants, and beauty queens all reflect a little bit of the flavour that is now the city I call home. It's not that all these people helped shaped the town as much as their stories highlight something about the town's psyche. It's told in a roughly chronological manner, but it's not a history book as we've come to think of them. It's popular history akin to popular science. While most are on the amusing side, a couple more serious issues creep in and a favourite of mine would probably fit under that banner; "No Place For The State in the Bedrooms of the Nation." This story, which takes its title from a Pierre Berton quote, is actually more about Pine Point than Yellowknife, though it has pan-Canadian repercussions. I've had a soft spot for Pine Point, a NWT ghost town, since I first heard of it through The Goggle's brilliant NFB interactive documentary. The idea of a mining town that basically existed just long enough for one generation to go through the school system, then completely dismantled, is fascinating enough as it is. But I don't recall anything in that documentary about Everett George Klippert. Thanks to Freeman to drawing my attention to this individual. How Klippert has not had a full-length biography written about him, I have no idea.

Sadly, back to the typos. Even in the aforementioned story, Freeman at one point inadvertently refers to Klippert as Kippert. Maybe some people don't get hung up on such minor details, maybe some don't even notice. But holy hell, I find it distracting. Klippert's story, as I mentioned before, had me totally engaged. Then, blam: Kippert. It was one of many typos, but serves to highlight an important point to be made. Freeman clearly knows the difference. He, like most writers, makes silly mistakes from time to time. But why, oh why, when authors decide to self-publish don't they invest in an editor? I'm sure you can find a half dozen or so typos on this blog page even now.* I'm human. But if you were paying to read this, you'd deserve more.

(*For the record, when you notice typos on my blog, don't let them go! Tell me about them in the comments or send me an email. When I go back and read my posts that are rife with obvious spelling mistakes and the like, it's embarrassing-- way more embarrassing than someone giving me a friendly heads up! Before you get too trigger happy, my blog title is intentionally misspelled.)


Sam said...

Totally agree with you about typos, John. They are distracting, to say the least, and are a real shame when found in self-published books because there is already a bit of a stigma associated with self-publishing. Excessive typos do little to change the stereotype that the books are somehow inherently inferior to those "really" published.

John Mutford said...

Sam: Recently I read one of those "really" published that was littered with typos (Charlotte Gray's Gold Diggers). I'm far less forgiving in those cases. Not only are readers being short-changed, but the authors as well.