The Wheeler Centre
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Mary Norris: From Comma Queen to Greek Geek
Copy editor and grammar nerd Mary Norris has seen the fabled linguistic traditions of the New Yorker up close – she has worked at the magazine for 40 years, most famously as query proofreader and Comma Queen. That experience forms the backbone of her first book, Between You & Me. ‘I hope writers will see that we are not the enemy,’ she has said of her profession. ‘We love the language.’
In her latest book, Greek to Me, Norris shares her love of all things Greek. Of course, it’s about language – how the Greeks adapted the Phoenician alphabet, and the surprising ways Greek informs English – but it also documents Norris’s encounters with Greek gods, wine, men, and olive groves. Myths are reinterpreted; landmarks are sought out; beautiful coincidences of word and symbol are excavated.
Mary Norris returned to Melbourne for a chat about her travels through Greek language, culture and art (and, of course, so much more) with Penny Modra.
Mary Norris is the author of Greek to Me and the New York Times bestseller Between You & Me, an account of her years in the New Yorker copy department. Originally from Cleveland, she lives in New York. Her favourite pencil used to be the Dixon Ticonderoga No. 1, but she now makes do with the Palomino Blackwing.
Penny Modra is the editorial director at The Good Copy, a Melbourne-based writing school and consultancy. She is a regular ‘grammar enthusiast’ guest on ABC Radio Melbourne and teaches editing in RMIT University's Professional Writing and Editing program. Penny writes occasional features for the Guardian, Vice Australia, Frankie and Smith Journal.