Comedian Aziz Anzari’s book “Modern Romance” is equal parts scientific research, anecdotal evidence, and stand up comedy. This book isn’t recommended for teens as it deals with mature themes and uses mature language. It reads like an R-rated Freakonomics all about dating in the modern age.
I found the book interesting because it dealt extensively with how people communicate effectively…and not-so-effectively in their romantic relationships. You might be surprised to learn that sloppy communication skills reflected poorly on potential suitors, and for many folks it was a deal breaker. Anzari relates:
“In any interviews we did, whenever bad grammar or spelling popped up, it was an immediate and major turnoff. Women seemed to view it as a clear indicator that a dude was a bozo. Let’s say you are a handsome, charming stud who really made a great first impression. If your first text is ‘Hey we shud hang out sumtimez,’ you may just destroy any goodwill you have built up.
“On our subreddit we were told a story about a man who was dating a spectacular woman but eventually broke up with her. He said it went downhill once he texted her asking if she had heard about a party at a mutual friend’s house. Her response was ‘Hoo?’ Not ‘Who,’ but ‘Hoo.’ He kept trying to force the word ‘who’ into conversation to make sure this beautiful woman could spell a simple three-letter word. Every time, she spelled it ‘hoo.’ He said it ruined everything. (NOTE: We did confirm that this was a woman and not an owl.)”
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In Flaubert’s Parrot, Julian Barnes points out a serious factual error in Golding’s Lord of the Flies: Piggy is very nearsighted, yet his glasses are used as a burning lens. This isn’t possible. The glasses of a farsighted person could be used that way, but not those of a nearsighted one. The lenses in Piggy’s glasses would have been diverged by the lens, not focused to a point.
“The shakiness of Golding’s optics, on the other hand, must definitely be classed as an error. The next question is, Does it matter? As far as I can remember Professor Ricks’s lecture, his argument was that if the factual side of literature becomes unreliable, then ploys such as irony and fantasy become much harder to use. If you don’t know what’s true, or what’s meant to be true, then the value of what isn’t true, or isn’t meant to be true, becomes diminished. This seems to me a very sound argument; though I do wonder to how many cases of literary mistake it actually applies. With Piggy’s glasses, I should think that (a) very few people, apart from oculists, opticians and bespectacled professors of English would notice; and (b) when they do notice, they merely detonate the error–like blowing up a small bomb with a controlled explosion. What’s more, this detonation (which takes place on a remote beach, with only a dog as witness) doesn’t set fire to the other parts of the novel.
“Mistakes like Golding’s are ‘external mistakes’–disparities between what the book claims to be the case, and what we know the reality to be; often they merely indicate a lack of specific technical knowledge on the writer’s part. The sin is pardonable. What, though, about ‘internal mistakes’, when the writer claims two incompatible things within his own creation? Emma [Bovary]’s eyes are brown, Emma [Bovary]’s eyes are blue. Alas, this can be put down only to incompetence, to sloppy literary habits.”
Barnes raises an interesting question here: Does it really matter that Golding got it wrong? What do you think? Does it take something away from the book?
Furthermore, is it possible that Golding (and his editors) understood the scientific problem of the lens and chose to ignore it because a nearsighted Piggy helps to symbolically emphasize the shortsightedness of human thought?