Watch that comma!
The surprise No. 1 best seller in Britain this year is not a suspense thriller, political memoir, or even a tell-all about the Queen It's Eats, Shoots & Leaves, a grammar treatise that leads the reader through the pitfalls of comma splicing; calls the apostrophe "our long-suffering little friend"; makes a rousing case for using semicolons; and describes President Woodrow Wilson's hatred of the hyphen, which he called "the most un-American thing in the world" (spectacularly undermining his own argument). Even the book's author, Lynne Truss, a 48-year-otd writer, is surprised by its success. The book debuts in the U.S. in April. "When I was writing it everybody thought ... obviously it wouldn't sell," she says. Maybe it's the catchy title: It comes from a joke that begins, "A panda walks into a cafe" The panda orders a sandwich, eats it, and then fires a gun into the air. On his way out, he tosses a badly punctuated wildlife manual the confused bartender and directs him to the entry marked "Panda." Whereupon the bartender reads: "Panda. Large black- and-white bearlike mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."