Sunday, November 11, 2012

Say NO to business and marketing books!

There used to be a time when Singaporeans were crazy about self-help books and books with embarrassing titles such as How I Made My First Million followed by How I Made My Next Million jostled with one another for the limelight in the National Best Seller List.  When Borders first opened its business in Singapore, many book lovers were thrilled.  The "literature and poetry" section was huge and it occupied more than half the entire floor space of that large book shop.  One of the first books I bought from Borders was the Riverside Chaucer which remains my pride and joy to this day.  I'm a firm believer in reading Middle English poetry in Middle English and a modern English translation of a Middle English poem just won't do unless you are introducing the poem to a child.  At that time, all book shops in Singapore sold only Middle English poems in modern English.    It was also from Borders that I bought Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch's edition of the Oxford Book of English Verse when other book shops only carried the more modern editions.

Just as I thought Borders was a real treasure trove for book lovers, something happened that changed my mind totally.  The "literature" section in Borders became smaller and smaller and many of the shelves that used to stock the greatest books on the planet were emptied and in their place stood pathetic volumes of marketing books on how to get rich or some such vile titles.  That was the time when I stopped buying books in Singapore and I got all the great works of literature from England or from the internet.  When Borders was wound up and its branch in Singapore closed down, I felt it got its just deserts.  A book shop that panders to the base and vulgar tastes of its lesser breed of customers does not deserve to thrive.

I take pride in the fact that I have never read a single business or marketing book in my entire life.  The library in my house is well-stocked and you can find the most obscure titles but I'm pleased to declare that it is unsullied by the undesirable taint of marketing books.  I can't think of anything more disgraceful than reading a book on how to get rich which is essentially what business and marketing books are all about.  However much they try to cloak their true intent in a respectable book jacket and whatever words they use to give the appearance of decency, the fact remains that a business book talks about nothing else but filthy money and how to amass it.  Impecunious though I may be, I look upon such books as an abomination and I have absolutely nothing to do with them.

We now live in a world where information flows freely and unchecked.  The most puritanical Amish cannot help but have pornography fed into his email completely unsolicited.  That's precisely how I got to read this morning a marketing article in a journal called the Singapore Business Review but I'm glad I read it.  At least I know for a fact now that I haven't missed anything by staying away from business and marketing books.

It is never my policy to criticise what others write.  The rules of grammar and proper writing style are to me mere rules that I care not a jot for.  Many of my best friends can't identify a pluperfect tense in a sentence to save their lives.  They don't mean a thing to me.  But if one must write an article in the Singapore Business Review, I would have expected slightly more care in how one phrases one's sentences.  Slipshod writing does betray to some degree what really goes on in a person's mind and how much he cares for his readers and the subject matter he's writing on.

I don't wish to identify the writer whose work I'm ciriticising and so I will merely pick a sentence or two to illustrate what I'm saying.  The errors are so glaring I need not say a word more.  Here they are:

I'll begin with the first line in the article.  It's presumably a quotation but the source is not given.  I honestly doubt if it is a quotation in the first place.  The sentence is as ungrammatical as the rest of the article so if it is a quotation, I suspect the writer is quoting his own previous articles.

 Here's another:

I was about to let it go as a minor oversight but when I saw that the error was repeated shamelessly, I felt secure in posting it here.

Now, the following is an egregious blunder that may very well have been an oversight but the writer of an article in such a serious journal really has no excuse for making it and besides, this flouting of a basic grammatical rule is quite consistent with the many other errors in the article:

Here's another:

Next comes the most garbled piece of writing in the post.  Articles are dropped, prepositions run riot and the general meaning is obscured:

I want to be fair.  I have no doubt the writer is a wonderful marketing guru but he badly needs an English lesson.  This is what you get when you trade Shakespeare, Milton and Tennyson for How to Get Rich.  Parents who hope to get their kids into business, marketing and investments must bear in mind that there is a price to pay when you turn your back on Arnold and Blake and Coleridge and all the other letters of the alphabet all the way to Yeats.  Sorry to the Francophiles but Zola really doesn't count.

I will continue to stay away from marketing books and it matters not if I miss out on a good stock exchange deal (or whatever the correct business term is) and remain as penniless as I have always been.  My bank books may be in the red but there will be in the epitaph on my tombstone a brilliant quotation of immense literary worth.

 Poor but happy in front of my single-bedroom ramshackle hut

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