Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sylvan Learning Center Typo: Someone’s Head Is Going to Role

An Illinois-based friend of mine received this circular in the mail, touting tutoring services. As she remarked, “Sylvan Learning of Peoria wants you to get right in there and wallow in ‘your student's education.’ Apparently.” That’s right, according to the text, parents should take an active roll.

Sylvan wants parents to take "an active roll". Should that be yeast or Parkerhouse?

It bears pointing out that this isn’t a hastily-typed letter home  -- it’s a printed piece of promotional material. That means that a pretty large error was overlooked by the person who wrote the copy, the person who proofed it, and the person who did the graphic design. More eyes may have been involved, though printers are mostly immune from blame. (They’ll sometimes point out an error if they notice it, but the client usually has to sign off on the text they provided.)

Sylvan Learning Center, for those who don’t know, is a chain of franchised education centers. Their WIkipedia page (under scrutiny for being too advertisement-like) claims that Sylvan has served more than two million students, which sort of makes them like the McDonald’s hamburgers of tutoring.

I’m sure Sylvan of Peoria is telling itself (if they’ve even noticed the error) that everyone makes mistakes. In certain fields, though, isn’t there a higher obligation to make sure those mistakes are corrected before they brand your business in a bad way?

It reminds me of a headline typo I spotted on a web page for someone selling editing services for self-publishers. You won’t have to look very hard to see what went wrong:

Or you could wait and self publish next Septober.

It’s a simple enough typo, but it’s in huge letters and rather easy to spot. That means that the writer/editor neglected to view her work after hitting “publish.” I actually pointed out the error in the comment section, and it was weeks before it was corrected. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for your services or professionalism.

The bottom line: check your work. Especially if you work in the business of telling others to check their work. I’m nervous myself about falling victim to Muphry’s Law (not a typo -- check it out).

Bloggers, never fear. I’m not looking to nitpick your posts. If you do publish a book and spell the title wrong on the cover, though, I’ll be coming for you. And if you offer editing services -- edit.

Spotted any ridiculous publishing flubs? Send them my way!

Monday, December 10, 2012

For Whom the Typo Tolls: A Hemingway Pub Flub

Typos aren’t just for unedited self-published efforts. These days it seems like you can spot at least one or two in novels from the Big Six (soon to become the Big Five?). It’s another thing entirely, though, when there’s a typo on the book’s cover. Even worse when it’s the title. Even worse when it’s one of the classics of American literature.

Close, but no cigar.

This copy of For Whom the Bells Toll appeared at the used bookstore where I work, and no, it’s not a spoof of For Whom the Bell Tolls. This particular title was spotted in a stack of books from the International Collector’s Library, with a note on top admonishing employees in so many words to stop putting high prices on such crappy publications.

It’s the publisher that’s crap, not the books. And not just because the copy editor doesn’t know her Hemingway. In fact, there’s not much collector-y at all about the International Collector’s Library, which was a branch of Doubleday. The quality is cheap, despite the faux gilding, and the spines have a propensity for cracking. The paper is acidic too, so unless you’re fond of yellow, they don’t age well. They’re the sort of books that look kind of nice if you have a lot of them on a bookshelf and no one looks very closely.

But back to that title. Where have I heard/seen that particular mangling of Hemingway before? Oh, yeah. On a friend’s Facebook post.

Perhaps whoever signed off on the book binding was just a huge fan of mod fashion?

I’m still lamenting that I never saved a copy of Tess of the D’Ubervilles [sic] or the paperback by Ruth Rendall [sic] I once spotted, but if they appear again, you can be sure they’ll be posted here.

Seen any egregious errors in publishing lately? Do tell.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

10 Best Calendars for Book Lovers

What happened to book-themed calendars? They certainly used to exist. Somehow, between the bizarre calendars, the popularity of Goats in Trees, and the umpteenth iteration of Thorazined kittens in a basket, calendars featuring great authors seem to have quietly disappeared.
The thing to keep in mind is that calendar publishing is exactly that -- publishing. Just as quality literature is less likely to be published these days in favor of books that will sell in crazily-high numbers (What Would Dummies Read? or Chicken Soup for the Twilight Fan’s Soul), calendar themes tend toward the trendy.

With some serious searching, I turned up a few, and the best are listed here. The list has some gaping holes in it, though. While it’s easy enough to turn up calendars featuring skimpily-attired women in fishing waders, naked dudes with puppies, or the cast of Jersey Shore, there’s not a single 2013 calendar dedicated to female writers, for example.

Are you listening, calendar makers? And while I’m at it, some writers seem lastingly famous enough to warrant their own calendars. Where are they?

Some currently non-existent book-related calendars I’d like to see:

  • Women writers
  • Southern writers
  • Beautiful libraries (seriously, this would be an amazing calendar)
  • Antique books
  • Oscar Wilde? Dorothy Parker? Jules Verne? The list goes on.
  • Mystery writers other than Arthur Conan Doyle, for a change
  • P. G. Wodehouse (for the Empress of Blandings alone)
  • Just downright lovely pictures of lovely books with gilt edges and leather covers and provocative titles that have lost their original meaning after 100 years or so.

Here are 10 of the best book calendars around, though the pool is sadly more shallow than it ought to be. Click the links for purchasing information.

2013 John Coulthart Cthulhu Calendar

Artist and designer John Coulthart created all of the illustrations for this calendar featuring most everyone’s favorite Lovecraft monster (Sorry, shoggoth fans; you’ll have to make your own calendar). These prints are absolutely stunning, and the styles range from what you could swear were vintage illustrations to cool, sleek, modern designs. Pick this up even if you’re lukewarm on Lovecraft, but you like fantasy, horror, or just plain ol’ good design. It’s a beaut.

There She Blows: A 2013 Hark! A Vagrant Literary Calendar

If you don’t know Kate Beaton’s hilariously literate web comic series Hark! A Vagrant, then hie thee to the website. Beaton handles history and literature deftly, skewering everything from Wuthering Heights to Lord Nelson to Edward Gorey’s cover illustrations for Anchor paperbacks. The calendar collects some of the best and funniest (with appearances by Robinson Crusoe and Mr. Rochester), and includes new material not found on the site.

The Reading Woman 2013 Wall Calendar

 There may be a dearth of female authors in the calendar world this year, but at least publishers recognize women as readers (and good thing too, since more women read fiction than men, anyway). The cover painting by Frédéric Soulacroix is a real stunner, and the other choices are no slouches, either.

2013 Vintage Sci-Fi Calendar

This calendar features covers from vintage pulp science fiction magazines from the ‘20s through the ‘50s, with plenty of appearances from notable authors before they made a name for themselves. (“The Concrete Mixer” by Ray Bradbury, anyone?)

2013 Sherlock Holmes Calendar

 Those with an appreciation for the real Holmes and Watson will appreciate this homage to the most popular detective of all time, with ephemera collected by The Strand magazine. Neither Holmes nor Watson are depicted as a robot, a Jack Russell Terrier, or Lucy Liu.

2013 Literary Pin-Up Calendar

Artist Lee Moyer pays tribute to the book characters of twelve fantasy writers, all of whom signed off on the project --including Ray Bradbury, who agreed before his death. Authors featured include Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, and Neil Gaiman, whose wife Amanda Scott served as the model for his homage. All proceeds go to Heifer International.

Museum of London’s Dickens and London Calendar 2013

It’s refreshing to see a calendar devoted to one single author (that doesn’t have a current TV or movie tie-in). This Dickens calendar is based on last year’s popular exhibit, which explored the connection between the author and the city that inspired him. Images of ephemera include George Cruikshank’s character illustrations and a toy theater with an Oliver Twist theme.

2013 Authors Are My Rock Stars Calendar

At last, writers being treated like they ought to be treated (something I’ve argued in favor of since Jeffrey Eugenides was trying to look sexy on a billboard). Kerouac, Plath, Twain and other authors are ready for the groupies to get their paws on this one.

Pulp Attack 2013 Calendar

A collection of artwork from both pulp fiction and film, and because pulp always goes big, this is a sixteen-month calendar.

Pulp Romance 2013 Vintage Calendar

Where the pulp attack calendar is rough around the edges, the pulp romance calendar is adorably sweet. The covers are from vintage romance mags, featuring stories like “Unwanted Husband,” “Too Much Passion,” and “Framed by Fate.”

Bonus: Desk Calendars for Book Lovers

If you spend more time at your desk than looking at your wall, then you might need a desk calendar (you might also be a writer). Workman’s Book Lover’s Page-a-Day Calendar is crammed with 365 days of bookish stuff. More of a horror nut? Stephen King has a desk calendar out this year, and it celebrates King stories that hit memorable milestones this year.

Still need another bookish way to keep up with things this year? Subscribe to Book Dirt. You can become a follower, subscribe to the RSS feed, or follow on Facebook.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

10 Most Bizarre Calendars for 2013

Update: The Weirdest 2014 calendars are here.

You’d think last year’s list of weirdest calendars would be hard to top, what with the drunken owls and human limbs in formaldehyde and all.

Never fear, lovers of the dumb, the distasteful, and/or the downright divergent. This year’s crop of calendar strangeness will make sure every loopy aunt, anti-social nephew, and creepy uncle gets a gift this holiday.

1. Nice Jewish Guys

If your own mom isn’t around to harass you about settling down, let this 2013 calendar do it for her. Meet Yan, who idolizes his brother and once won a car on The Price Is Right. Or David, who makes a mean challah french toast. While you’re at it, eat something. You look thin. And would it kill you to call your mother once in awhile? (Modern Tribe)

2. Bare Naked Caving

Cue the stalagmite jokes. Last year’s list of weird calendars featured naked archaeologists. Not to be outdone, this time the spelunking folk (both men and women) have shed their clothes and their dignity in the name of charity. According to press, some of the features include Swildon’s Hole and Giant’s Hole. Please let those be caves. (Westminster Speleological Group)

3. Accordion Babes

These days you can’t just have a pin-up calendar. Like the musical Gypsy tells us, “you gotta have a gimmick.” That’s why we have Women in Waders and Girls with Corpses. What’s refreshing about these accordion babes is that they’re not mere models -- they’re all actual accordion players. Sexy accordion players. Apparently, that’s a thing. (Etsy)

4. Sexy Putin

The Russian martial arts-trained, polar bear-tranquilizing, Formula 1-racing prez just can’t keep his shirt on. Unfortunately, this calendar is a little pricy, so it might cost you yours, too. (Cafe Press)

5. Weird Horse

This calendar just might defy explanation, but let’s try. It’s twelve months of the same bizarre horse picture, photoshopped onto random scenery, such as in a field of hay, with a floating image of the head of Carlton, from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. A product review sums it up: “Never in my life have I seen a more inane product.” The first 100 orders will be ostensibly signed by the horse. (Weird Horse)

6. Lay Z Gaga

Twelve months of a poodle modeling different looks worn by Lady Gaga. The model apparently couldn’t stop eating the meat dress long enough to take the cover shot. Points are also lost for the lack of a recreation of “Telephone” with, say, a Rottweiler Beyonce. (

7. I Eat Babies

Perhaps second only to the weird horse in its inexplicableness, the 2013 I Eat Babies calendar is exactly what it sounds like: the sentence “I eat babies,” month after month. Nothing changes but the font. Keep an eye out for August, with its deft imitation of the Eat-Mor-Chikin cows font. (Cafe Press)

8. Wallpaper

Sometimes things are described as being dull as wallpaper. Imagine how much duller it would be if there weren’t even wallpaper to keep you occupied. Now you’ll never have to find out. Keep an eye out for next year’s fascinating calendars, Dishwater and Paint Drying. (

9. Bad Sofas

This is just the thing to hang above your brown plaid sofa, if you’re not worried about marring the faux-wood paneling. (

10. City Chickens and Their Coops

I know, I know, city chickens are a thing now. Featuring the proud residents in front of their trendy coops, though, smacks a little of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. With chickens. (Northern Sun)

11. Bonus! 2012’s Most Bizarre Calendars that Updated for 2013 

Zlata the contortionist's 2013 calendar, though unfortunately not available in the US, and despite the workplace theme, the rest of the site is probably not safe for work.

Goats in Trees, back for more goat-y treeness.

Naked archaeologists, still digging naked.

This year’s list was reallllly hard to narrow down. Use the Facebook link to the right to like Book Dirt, and I'll be posting all the weird 2013 calendars that didn’t make the cut.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

All Roads Lead to Book Dirt: Bell Jar Clip Art Edition

Even while working on bigger projects keeps me from regularly blogging, I still check my blog stats like a madwoman. And yes, they’re still plenty weird. In fact, so many visitors have found Book Dirt by searching for “naked contortionist” that I barely bat an eyelash when I see it on the list. Still other search terms make me wonder if I should fear for my -- or anyone else’s -- safety. I’ll keep those to myself for now, but they occasionally involve such things as dismembered corpses and pieces of luggage. I suppose that’s less of a worry for a book blogger than it is for TSA.

It’s practically a cause for celebration when someone finds Book Dirt when searching for something related to actual books. I get an even bigger thrill when my blog is found by people searching for the answer to Who wrote Dante’s Inferno? I feel like I’ve performed an important public service.

Here are some of the more oddball search terms of late that have led readers to me, whether they wanted to get here or not.

Vintage clip art of a literal bell jar. Print and save for the church bulletin.

1. Bell jar clip art

I’m thrilled that this search phrase is at least book related, but mystified by someone’s idea that there might actually be clip art illustrations for The Bell Jar. I can only imagine what the scenes might be:

  • Esther on the bus with her new diaphragm
  • The food poisoning incident
  • Visiting Buddy in the TB sanitarium
  • Basement crawlspace + gobs of pills
  • Electric shock therapy hijinks
  • Thwarting Joan’s lesbian advances (Caption: “You make me want to puke, if you want to know.")

Actually, if someone wants to put these illustrations together, they’d make one hell of a coloring book.

2. Disturbing book pig

While I’m not sure which disturbing book pig this user was looking for, most people’s guess would probably go to Napoleon, the porcine dictator in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. My vote, though, goes to the disturbingly gargantuan Empress of Blandings, the prize Berkshire sow of Lord Emsworth in P.G. Wodehouse’s Blandings Castle novels. It’s hard to say which is larger, the Empress herself, or her propensity for being kidnapped. 

Napoleon vs. the Empress of Blandings in a super disturbing book pig smackdown battle.

3. Chauvinistic fortune cookie sayings

I can’t recall ever seeing a truly sexist fortune cookie message, as they’re usually so vague as to be almost meaningless. If the person who searched for this phrase wants a saying that’s about as misogynistic as they come, the book lover in me suggests something from Keith Talent, of Martin Amis’ London Fields. A typical Keithism: “If you’re going to be violent, stick to women.” Imagine cracking open a cookie and finding: You can’t be doing with all these birds. Saps a man’s darts.

4. A limerick about 50 Cent

It’s easy to see how this Googler was led to Book Dirt. I’ve written about both my penchant for limerick construction as well as the legal brouhaha between 50 Cent and writer Chinua Achebe. If you don’t know about the latter, then I hardly see how I could keep from telling you about it in limerick form.

50 Cent made a film (that’s the start),
And the title was Things Fall Apart,
Then Achebe got riled,
And a lawsuit was filed.
I can’t say that the outcome was smart.

5. Old school classics contortion

Now this is a web researcher I can understand. I feel you, man. These newfangled contortionists just don’t understand. It’s like they’re crapping on the graves of the contortionists who created the craft. You’ve got to know the rules before you break them. These crazy kids with their fancy bending and flashy costumes. Give me a break, right? 

Ah, the classics never die.

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