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Eats, Shoots - and Sells

24 May 2004

Much to everyone's surprise, Lynnne Truss's witty little book about punctuation (see News Review 19 from 19 January) has been a big hit all over the world. In the UK it passed 600,000 sales last month and is still heading the non-fiction bestseller lists, having held this dizzying position for 20 weeks. Eats, Shoots and Leaves was reckoned by many to relate to a typically British obsession and even its author, a doughty fighter on the barricades of the punctuation wars, could not have imagined what a chord her book would strike in the furthest corners of the world.

Truss has recently completed a coast-to-coast tour of the US and the book, published by Gotham, an imprint of Penguin, already has nearly 500,000 copies in print and has swept to the top of the bestseller lists. She commented: 'There's always this idea there's a sense of humour gap between the two countries but there isn't. People are exercised about punctuation. I'm meeting a lot of sticklers and it's encouraging. In Milwaukee and Portland they were saying thank you, thank you for writing this.'

The book has not been adapted for the American market. The US publisher, William Shinker, said: 'We felt it was not necessary to Americanise it. To do so would be to change the book. And a lot of the charm of it is it's very British.' Obviously readers all over the world feel the same way. As well as topping bestseller lists in English-speaking countries such as Australia, South Africa, Hong Kong and Singapore, it has done extremely well in countries such as Egypt, Italy, Poland and Iceland. Most readers are enjoying it in English, but the author's agent is hoping to place translated versions in Holland, Sweden and Japan (though the Japanese translator faces a challenging task).

To anyone concerned with the written word, it's cheering to see that so many people care about punctuation, often regarded as a bit passé in our email/text-messaging age. Pedants of the world unite!