Alexandra Holzer,
Growing Up Haunted
(Schiffer, 2008)

In this book, Alexandra Holzer, daughter of ghost hunter Hans Holzer, tells the story of growing up among psychics, astrologers, witches and warlocks, fading TV stars and a genuinely eccentric family. You would think the result would be fascinating. Unfortunately, it is not.

Here is a paragraph, chosen almost at random, from the book:

One night Nadine decided to get out of bed and go downstairs for a drink. Now my eldest is eight so they can do that. For my younger ones we have the gate up so they cannot do that. I always slept through the night and had a bottle by my side. Nowadays that is not as good as bottles ought to be put away.

Shall we say that the paragraph is not exactly gracefully written?

As I read this book, a question kept running through my mind: Where was the editor? Sentence and grammar errors are so prevalent in the text that it becomes unreadable. The word "creak" becomes "creek," "clique" becomes "click," and in many sentences words are simply missing, so that the sentences themselves become incomprehensible. You have to stop, back up and read again, trying to figure out exactly what Holzer had intended to say. Sentence fragments abound and the punctuation is, to say the least, whimsical. Quotation marks appear at one end or the other of sentences that are not quotes and isolate words that need not be quoted. For example, while traveling with Sybil Leek, a well-known and respected medium, Holzer wrote: While traveling on a train, Sybil had a pet "snake" in a white basket. It's clear we are talking about a literal snake, so why put it in quotes?

What publisher would send a book out in this shape?

It is too bad Holzer didn't either hire an editor to work with her or get the editing she needed from her publisher. In Growing Up Haunted, she has interesting stories to tell, but only the very committed reader -- or a reviewer -- will wade through the confused and confusing text to find them.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

3 May 2008

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