Dear Chicago Reader,
For two years now I have been a Chicago resident and a rabid fan of the Reader. From day one of my Iowa-bumpkin-turned-Windy City-immigrant days, I have pored over Section Two for tips on concerts and movies worth seeing. Many a dark, unemployed day has been spent lovingly scraping Section Four for a job or, later, when I was gainfully employed, a better job. Two jaded years later I still follow my Reader regimen: I scan the feature article to pique my interest; skim City File, Straight Dope, Savage Love, the concert listings, and theater reviews; and then go back to the feature article, because it's always a good read.
Let it be known, I have never been one of those people who feel compelled to bitch publicly about something that is essentially a preference issue, such as newspaper articles. That said, the feature article entitled "Mommy and Me" [October 24] was fucking awful.
Grammar is in bad shape. We live in the age of text messaging, IMs, e-mails, and emoticons. Kids these days substitute numbers for letters with wild abandon (e.g., "abbrevi8"), and adults with expensive college educations rely on spell-check to show them what a business letter looks like. I am not championing the King's English or hoping the word "doth" comes back into use. Language moves at the speed of light, and that's inevitable and desirable--it's cultural identity, and we like that. But "Mommy and Me" was so devoid of any linguistic merit it was an insult to our language and your readership's intelligence to publish such an article.
The editor's choice to include the incoherent, offensive-if-I-cared,
150-ish-line poem about the author's wet dream starring mom was just plain icky, but I was willing to accept this use of quality space if the rest of the story was able to support such a choice. I read on in hopes I would find a reason why I had wasted over five minutes of my life slogging through such an uninteresting, poorly written, nauseating interlude. I found only a muddled, creepy journal, wrought with new words like "yukky," "fugger," and "literachoor." The author, rather than relying on strength of sentence structure or word placement, resorted to CAPITALIZING every WORD he felt was IMPORTANT or INTERESTING. Aside from the disturbing feeling that YOU'RE BEING YELLED AT, using all capital letters is a cheap, lazy way of letting your reader know YOU'RE SERIOUS ABOUT SOMETHING. It's not effective, nor is it interesting. There were dozens of incomplete sentences and gross grammatical errors in an article that wasn't compelling or interesting to begin with. Where was my paper? Where was my Sunday morning, absent of Web blogs and the cyber laziness I suffered through the week? The article, which might have been a semiengaging slice of life, was instead an exercise in juvenile cyberspeak and disjointed language--it's what I have grimly come to accept out of instant messaging, but not what I want out of my weekly paper.
Maybe I'm an elitist, maybe I'm a snob, but when I read the paper it's a sacred act. Whether it's the Times, the Onion, or the Reader--no matter what shred of newsprint I pick up--the act of reading the printed word on a document that is archived, mass-produced, and distributed on a weekly or daily basis appeals to some part of me that will forever be unmatched by television or the Internet. The paper is great because it's the paper. Everyone from Benjamin Franklin to the classic 50s businessman, from the college student who's avoiding writing her thesis in a coffee shop to me, sitting at home on Sunday morning with a screwdriver and a cigarette, reading the paper is a sacred act, even if you only read the funnies and then throw the rest in the garbage. I beg you, Reader, as a devoted member of your vast readership, don't publish "articles" like Meltzer's "Mommy and Me." Maintain a level of literary integrity for no other reason than that you are one of the last examples of its existence. Jargon will always exist, and slang is natural. Remember, however, that our papers may not be graded anymore, but they are often still riddled with errors.