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The Transitive Vampire

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  1,196 Ratings  ·  148 Reviews
Playful, practical, this is the style book you can't wait to use, a guide that addresses classic questions of English usage with wit & black humor. Black-&-white illustrations throughout.
Introduction
Sentences & what we mean by them
Words & what kinds of words they are
Nouns
Verbs
Verbals
More on verbs
Adjectives & adverbs
Pronouns
Arriving at agreements
Phr
...more
Hardcover, 159 pages
Published August 10th 1993 by Times Books (NYC) (first published January 1st 1984)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Darren
Jun 09, 2013 Darren rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grammar
I liked aspects of this book, but would not use it as a textbook. The problem is it is a textbook.

The grammar presented is so much simpler than the vocabulary. Some might argue that both are alike in their archaicisms; I would not. The vocabulary is rich and complex, and almost any reader will probably reach for their dictionary a time or two, and be all the better for having done so. However, I felt that any reader who could happily work through the example sentences would already know what a
...more
Ksenia Anske
Dec 14, 2014 Ksenia Anske rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quirky, fast-paced, imaginative. A take on grammar unlike you've seen in any grammar books. I would say, I enjoyed reading it more than trying to understand what it was talking about, given the fact that English is not my first language. I did glimpse a few things that were useful, and hopefully they will stay put in my head, but the rest happily whooshed out of my brain the moment I closed this book. And perhaps the ornate vocabulary had something to do with it. It distracted me at times, at ti ...more
Trin
Jan 10, 2009 Trin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference
Gothic-themed grammar guide, read in preparation for the copy test I have to take later today. *gulp* The sample sentences in this book are certainly more diverting than the ones you were likely to have studied in school (for the five minutes the teacher bothered with grammar, if your schooling was anything like mine). For example, demonstrating subject-verb agreement, Gordon gives us: "Gawking out of the corner of his eye was a man who adored stevedores. Beneath the honeysuckle were the caresse ...more
Heather *live on coffee & flowers*
Grammar and vampires? WHERE has this book been all my life?

Review:

This should be a helpful reference for me, since I definitely won't remember the fine details of, say, participles. I love grammar and can use it properly for the most part, but I couldn't tell you all about clauses or anything. I can name the helping verbs. That's smart, right?

Anyway, I found the example sentences within really awkward. Grammatically correct, sure, but awkward nonetheless, and it distracted me.

Her antic yet coer
...more
Richard
I feel really bad about giving this only two stars — "it was okay" — but my reaction was quite the letdown. Meh.

But as I forced myself to read further, I realize the problem is that while the conceit behind the book is clever, it really doesn't work.

This book, at its heart, is a collection of grammatical examples, with a short snippet of explanatory introduction to introduce each concept, and sometimes to link various terms together.

The author attempts to spice things up by using a mildly breath
...more
Spencer Distraction
"Everyone is waltzing to a different Johann Strauss." This book ov grammar seems to either align with the language junked up in one's head, or sends the rest away baffled and not bemused. Two classics:
"Remember, sweetie, I'm your crepuscular consort, so don't bother calling me at noon." &
"Hey, girlie, drag your carcass over here!"
Frank Anderson
Jul 14, 2015 Frank Anderson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Deluxe Transitive Vampire by Karen Elizabeth Gordon

Unlike most writing handbooks, The Deluxe Transitive Vampire is as entertaining as it is packed with repetitive and creative examples. Instead of presenting article after article, in precise text blocks, the information is structured more to get your attention. Certainly there is the need for, and the style followed for telling you what is being covered, but then there may be a woodcut print to illustrate the point.
For me, the overall mos
...more
Denise Hay
May 22, 2014 Denise Hay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I have to say right off the bat, I've been in love with Karen Elizabeth Gordon for years. Anyone who comes up with the non-sequitur examples that she does, AND knows her grammar and punctuation in the dark without a flashlight, just may be the girl for me. I own all of her books, most in hardcover, and having just retrieved one to find some examples, I can also attest they appear to be crowned with clouds of cat hair and dust. This says a couple of things: I'm a terrible housekeeper (just so not ...more
Erik Graff
Apr 29, 2015 Erik Graff rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Erik by: Tom & Caroline Miley
Shelves: reference
The central conceit of this very brief English grammar is the use of macabre and/or silly examples and illustrations. While the examples, albeit only sophomorically funny, are useful, the black-and-white illustrations contribute nothing. Reading it, I was reminded of why I disliked and/or was no good at grammar lessons in elementary school. Thank heavens that a barely passable B- on a grammar test got me into accelerated English classes in high school!
Liz
This is refreshingly full of antiquated and archaic vocabulary. It's a fun combination of my interests in both language/grammar and the macabre. As an added bonus the text predictor on my phone now includes words such as crepuscular (resembling twilight) and caftan (a wide sleeved middle-eastern undergarment).
Ivonne Rovira
Jul 01, 2015 Ivonne Rovira rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Do you write? Well, then you need not just to read this but to keep it readily at hand.
Elizabeth
I need to study up now that I write professionally.

***

"Similar fidelity holds where a pronoun appositive appears: it still takes the same case as the word to which it's in apposition...

"Let's you and me get together and do away with some of the possibilities. (you and me are in apposition to the us in let's: let us)"

I didn't know that.

***

More surprises:

"When singular and plural subjects are joined by the correlative conjunctions either...or, neither...nor, not only...but also, not...but, the ver
...more
Mary
Oct 22, 2010 Mary rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There are two kind of good books to legitimately hate: Those that do what you planned to do, but better; and those that do what you planned to do, but worse. Unfortunately this is the latter. I was so excited about writing the Darkwater Grammar because I thought I was original, then I found this book and I was moderately excited because I thought I could at least use this in my classes. Turns out that lesser hope, too, is dashed through Gordon's arcane vocabulary, poor organization, and occasion ...more
Rego
Apr 14, 2013 Rego rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a book on grammar, The Deluxe Transitive Vampire has more imagination and verve than many works of fiction. In reading it, my attention faded out on the actual bits about grammar and instead I was captivated by her examples: "Bellowing complaints in the square at dawn left half the population with laryngitis and the remainder plagued with doubts." While I obviously appreciate Gordon's linguistic prestidigitation, I actually found it a bit distracting from the definitions of grammar she was s ...more
Terry
Mar 03, 2015 Terry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful, amusing, edifying book about grammar. Reading Karen Gordon's contribution to saving the language is an effortless way to sort out all manner of both mundane and exotic features of English usage. Rules and conventions are much more riveting when expressed in Gordon's brash and quirky style. For example: A gerund is the -ing form of a verb, and it gets to live the unpredictable life of a noun, buffeted about by caprices and verbs. OR Without phrases, sentences would be starkly inhospi ...more
Melissa
Aug 07, 2008 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a cool book. I've been wanting to brush up on my grammar skills for years, but the thought of hunkering down with a style manual for a weekend was downright intolerable. Thanks to The Deluxe Transitive Vampire, I finally know the difference between who and whom and a host of other grammar oddities, and I no longer feel as if I'm making up my own version of the English language.

My only complaint is that Gordon's cleverness sometimes gets in the way of clarity. I found myself breezing throug
...more
Roxanne
Sep 14, 2009 Roxanne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference, word-nerd
This is kind of a fun read--it's unlike any other grammar handbook you've met. Gordon has a gothic writing style and a wild and flowery vocabulary, which is very different from the straightforward, matter-of-fact tone you find in a typical grammar book. Gordon's sentences are peopled with vampires and mastodons, debutantes and gargoyles and trolls, and her characters get up to all sorts of mischief. It's much more interesting than the bland sorts of examples you'll find elsewhere. Maybe it's jus ...more
Justin
Oct 07, 2016 Justin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
The Deluxe Transitive Vampire is a crash course through the mechanics of the English language, by way of Gothic literature, mixed with modern witticisms. As much a set of stories told in the margins, as it is a guidebook on when to use "who" versus "whom," this book is presented in a lively, quirky style that will probably leave you with a better grasp of grammar than an entire education from the public school system. Things do get a bit weighty and ponderous toward the end, but the rules set fo ...more
Araminta Matthews
While it is simply a primer on all things English grammar, this is certainly the most interesting book I've ever read on the subject. Rather than deliver the same boring diatribe of grammar rules and regulations (e.g. Strunk and White), it deliberately weaves grammar rules with Victorian macabre. The sentences used to illustrate grammar are all a little Edward Gorey (i.e. "Her fiance is a somnabulist"). It is full of illustrations (mostly lithographs and pen and ink sketches from the late ninete ...more
Rosie
Jun 22, 2008 Rosie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anglophiles and anglophobes alike
Recommended to Rosie by: Jen F.
This is a grammar handbook, but don't let that fact send you running. This book contains hilarious sentences to illustrate plain-old grammar concepts like predicate nouns and subordinate clauses. The author uses a few characters such as mythical creatures, courtesans, and magicians to guide the reader through the labyrinth of our language, and always leaves me chuckling. I have this book lying around mny house, making it easy for me to pick it up in a moment of boredom. The benefits are two-fold ...more
Rachel
Feb 10, 2016 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writer-reference
For a book on English grammar, this is a lucid explanation of parts of speech and basic syntax, with entertaining examples, whimsical illustrations, and a vivid (if somewhat bossy) voice.

Even so, I found my interest flagging about two-thirds of the way through. I guess that even for a grammar nerd like me, the topic is more of something I look up when I have questions than something I want to read about. Still, this book is a valiant effort to make a dry subject live, and I may keep the book aro
...more
Emily
Mar 23, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My mom, the grammarian, bought me this book and I have to say I love it. There are a handful of people on this earth that find grammar genuinely interesting, and I happen to be one of them. As Henry Higgens remarked "Her English is too perfect, that clearly indicates that she is foreign; while other people are instructed in their native language English people aren't." Perhaps I should carry it around just to whack idiots that say "me and her went to the movies." Honestly this is a fun useful re ...more
Steve Thomas
Jan 10, 2015 Steve Thomas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
This is actually a handbook on grammar. This is the only book that could be classified as a textbook that you will enjoy reading for pleasure - even on the toilet! Because it is enjoyable - you will be surprised at how it will improve your writing. Don't take this review as an example - I usually do these when I am into three whiskey drinks on a late Saturday night. But the very fact that these reviews are even legible can be attributed to this book. I finally leanred the appropriate use of the ...more
Jillian
I'm confused about the intended audience for The Transitive Vampire, since I suspect that most readers who can understand its vocabulary and references are not in need of much grammar instruction. I was hoping to find entertaining examples to use in class, but most of the ones in this book would be too confusing or distracting to be effective. (For example: "His particular sadistic specialty was contumely, which Melissa craved with an abject thirst.") Still, it's a relatively amusing and instru ...more
Robin Conley
I'm conflicted about this book. It is a fun grammar book, but unlike most grammar books it really pushes things with the vocabulary. While I normally don't mind elevated vocabulary within books, in a grammar book that is meant to teach someone basic grammar, you'd think the authors/editors would choose more basic vocabulary. It took the simple explanations, and made them much more complicated, which may make the book less appealing to some. I enjoyed the book overall, but didn't feel like it was ...more
Vidya
Mar 07, 2013 Vidya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This didn't exactly hold my attention all the way through.... But it's a book on grammar. And it does what it does very well. Unlike most grammar books, I did find myself paying tension to the examples and illustrations, not just to examine the parts of speech, but also because I was genuinely interested in the examples. Am I going to pick it up for a read through again? Probably not. But I'll be glad to have it on hand next time I'm struggling to remember what a past perfect participle phrase i ...more
Jef
Feb 04, 2010 Jef rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
this is a fun read, but because of its structure i didn't enjoy it as much as eats, shoots, and leaves . vampire was entertaining, but after a while it became a little mind-numbing, because even though the examples were amusing, they make up all of the content - along with rules and many victorian-style engraving-type pictures. still, this is a quick read that i'd recommend to anyone interested in the subject of grammar - it's far less dry than most.
Luke
Nov 08, 2012 Luke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Deluxe Transitive Vampire by Karen Elizabeth Gordon is a great and humerus way to learn grammar. I was having trouble with grammar for a while and then my mom found this great book and now I don't struggle nearly as much as I used to! This book is full of odd and funny phrases helping you understand just how bizarre english is. I highly recommend this for any one who is having trouble with grammar or just some one who likes a good laugh!
Vanessa
Jan 30, 2010 Vanessa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference
The prose is NAUSEATINGLY purple (which is unfortunately part of its conceit), but it's laid out well and easy to follow. The content is really basic, so it might be useful for someone with a shaky grasp of grammar, but I personally need references with more obscure usage issues and trickier grammatical undertakings than "this is a clause, this is a preposition phrase, adverbs modify adjectives and verbs, etc."
Justine
Dec 04, 2010 Justine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This may be the most entertaining, not to mention informative, grammar book you'll ever sink your teeth into....cross my heart and hope to...well, you know the rest.
She tells a fabulous, weird and dark tale, using the examples and the grammar rules. It's wonderful stuff. And this deluxe edition is worth the investment, or re-investment, as in my case. I'd bought the original years ago, but I had to take the bite, I mean, bait, and add this one to my reading and reference library, as well.
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Karen Elizabeth Gordon, who is most well-known for her comic language handbooks The New Well-Tempered Sentence and The Deluxe Transitive Vampire, is also author to a collection of short stories published by Dalkey Archive Press. The Red Shoes and Other Tattered Tales was hailed by many critics as Rabelaisian in its humor.

Gordon resides alternately in Berkeley, California and Paris.

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“She wrapped herself up in an enigma; there was no other way to keep warm.” 1 likes
“A pronoun, too, will aptly reflect the number of its antecedent: 'they' does not refer to one person, no matter how many personalities she or he has, or how eager you are to skirt the gender frays.” 0 likes
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