Posts Tagged '“The Elements of Style”'

In Defense of Standards

I had not read anything by David Foster Wallace until, following his premature death by suicide late last year, I could not open a paper or magazine without encountering another of the dozens of anguished and adulatory tributes calling him the greatest writer of his (my) generation. My curiosity piqued (the more so after learning that, like me, DFW had been a competitive tennis player), I bought his 1,000-plus-page novel Infinite Jest and a slimmer collection of essays, Consider the Lobster. (A three-pound paperback edition of the former waits patiently in my bedside stack until someone invents a contraption that will suspend and hold it open so that I can read it in bed without injuring myself. I recommend the essays to DFW novices — those who can countenance never eating lobster again and the withering criticism of Tracy Austin’s vapidness in “How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart.”)
Continue reading ‘In Defense of Standards’

“The Unforeseeable Future”

Leafing through the “Misused Words and Expressions” section of Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style,” I paused at the entry, “The Foreseeable Future:”

A cliché and a fuzzy one. How much of the future is foreseeable? Ten minutes? Ten years? Any of it? By whom is it foreseeable? Seers? Experts? Everybody?”

Good question! As my son recently quipped when I asked him, mid-afternoon, whether he’d be home for dinner: “What, you want me to predict the future?” Continue reading ‘“The Unforeseeable Future”’

Salutations!

E.B. White with his dog in the late 1940s (photo from NYT, 10/2/85)

E.B. White with his dog in the late 1940s (photo from NYT, 10/2/85)

I first fell in love with E.B. White’s books as a small child reading Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. Later I grew to appreciate his writing for adults in The New Yorker. 

More recently, while boxing up my late mother’s books to donate to her local library, I found a hardcover copy of White’s collected essays, inscribed by me “Christmas 1977,” the year of its publication. I brought the book home, and leafing through it, I discovered that Mom had saved a newspaper clipping of his obituary between its pages. (White died Oct. 1, 1985, at age 86.) Re-reading the essays has reminded me how deeply I admire White, not only for the elegance of his prose and his dry wit, but for the timeless wisdom of his observations about daily life, animals and politics.

“Salutations!” is how Charlotte first greeted Wilbur, and so I dedicate this blog to E. B. White, whose way with words continues to impress and inspire me.


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