Peter Delacorte

Writer and non-speaker of German

My biography in English

Grammar, EnglishMika KozmaComment

Peter Delacorte was born in New York and, seeking relief from alternate side of the street parking, moved to San Francisco in 1971. He has lived there ever since, churning out novels (five in 35 years, three of them published) as if there were no tomorrow.  The third, Time on My Hands, was short-listed for the U.K.'s Arthur C. Clarke Award and was called “definitely…a masterwork” by a man at the laundromat.  But some other, more authentic reviewers also liked it.  Delacorte lives on Potrero Hill with his wife, Bonnie, and their dog, Doxy, who believes foghorns are the spawn of the devil.  He does not speak a word of German.  Well, that's not exactly true.  He does know a few words, like waschbaer and einwegflaschen.  But--although it contains references to Peter's actual great-great-grandfather and to the Beach Boys--the column to the right is ghostwritten!  Still, pretty interesting.  Too bad if you can't read it.

Big plans

Mika KozmaComment

I wrote a novel called The Mountaintop.  I started it well before the Broadway play of the same name, so I figure I'm entitled to the title.  The novel takes place in New York and in Memphis during the first week of April 1968.  (If you don't know what happened on April 4 of that year, you can look it up. Or you can wait for the serialized audio book that's going to start appearing right here as soon as I can figure out how to do it.)  The Mountaintop has been turned down by just about every publisher in New York, which puzzles me because I think it's pretty good.  It's not at all like Time on My Hands: no time machines, no sociopathic European people from the 21st century.  It's seen through the eyes of five interconnected young people--three men, two women--in alternating chapters.  You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll make noises of great excitement and anticipation as Lydia, Ben, Prosper, Maddy, and Alex make their way fictionally into your hearts.

Language!

Mika KozmaComment

My parents met in the early 1940s when they were both editors at Dell Publishing.  My mother judged people almost entirely on the quality of their grammar.  I say "almost entirely" because she also came down hard on pronunciation.  One of my earliest memories involves the word caramel.  I was four years old and I--a red-blooded American kid--omitted the second a.  Mom gave me the coldest look imaginable and said, "It's not cahrmel, it's caramel."  She loved Walter Cronkite but shook her head and moaned at the television when he pronounced "forte" as "for-tay," or said "puh-weblo" for "Pueblo." My sisters and I are not quite as fanatical as our parents were, but I doubt there are too many families who spend time on the telephone discussing how "the boat sunk in heavy seas" made it past the copy desk at the Times. I hope to use this space to raise questions about English grammar and usage--such as, was the confusion of your and you're so rife in pre-Internet days, or is it a recent phenomenon that most Americans seem to have been absent during fourth grade English?  And how about phenomenon/phenomena or criterion/criteria?  Which is singular and which is plural? Listen to any talking head on the TV and you'll be misled.

Here's a puzzle.  Do you say, or do you know someone who says, anyways instead of anyway? I'm aware that the superfluous s occurs frequently, as in afterwards instead of afterward, but for some reason anyways makes me stop and think. There doesn't appear to be any geographical or sociological pattern to it.  Deviators from anyway  seem to be random. There are three of my acquaintance--from upstate New York, southeastern Pennsylvania, and Southern California--all college graduates, all without noticeable affect.

Anyway, here's another.  When did the redundant is become so fashionable, as in "the thing is, is that we have to get out of here?"  What's that second is doing there, and where did it come from?  Listen to a speech by Barack Obama and it pops up constantly.  The president also pronounces "divisive" as "divissive," but so (unaccountably) do a lot of politicians.