Friday, June 26, 2009

Reading writers writing on writing

In my picture of an ideal world of words, I would spend equal amounts of time making words and reading words. However, this is an imperfect world and sometimes -- like lately -- there is only opportunity for one of those pursuits. My solution has been to read words about making words, and thereby develop the warm, fuzzy feeling that, although I might not be doing much writing, I am at least learning about it and potentially storing up inspiration for when it should come in handy.

This month, I've completed four books in some way associated with crafting words and making books. I'll share them with you over the next little while.

The first I finished was the famous Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. I'm ashamed that it took a school assignment to actually get me to read this from cover to cover. I'd dipped into it in the past but this time I actually read it right through, discovering as so many others have that this little book is not only incredibly commonsense and practical, but it's also surprisingly readable. Readable and funny.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Elements of Style (sometimes simply referred to as 'Strunk & White') is a simple how-to book containing guidelines for clear, concise speech. It began life as the text for an English class by Strunk, who taught -- and inspired -- writer E.B. White (Charlotte's Web, anyone?). In later years, White was asked to revise the work, and did so with grace and humour. The end result is a grammar book that is surprisingly unlike a grammar book in that it is fun to read. I definitely need a copy of my own to keep and refer back to.

Elements of Style
William Strunk, Jnr., and E.B. White
Rating: 9/10

PS. The edition I read was this one, with charming illustrations by Maira Kalman. Delightful!