Monthly Archives: June 2018

Do I Make Myself Clear? Why Writing Well Matters by Harold Evans – a MUST READ

Do I Make Myself Clear? Why Writing Well MattersDo I Make Myself Clear? Why Writing Well Matters by Harold Evans

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I needed this book. Everybody needs this book – even if English is not your language of choice. In an age when degenerated vernacular makes its way into electronic mail, and worse… papers, reports, news stories…when the idiotic term “fake news” is slung with chopped sentence fragments of Twit-verse…the need to write well has never been more … needed.

This was listed as a reference in a class on writing I had last month and as I had it on my “someday” list, I bumped it up to “now”. Evans has an impressive pedigree and writes with authority and knowledge. He also writes for a reader, no stretch given his editorial positions. In three parts, he breaks down the mechanics of writing well, focuses the reader on making words count and focusing on meanings, and explores the consequences of bad writing. And on the mechanics, I had difficulty not succumbing to monologophobia when writing that last sentence. Coined apparently by Theodore Bernstein, a monologophobe is “a guy who would rather walk naked in front of Saks Fifth Avenue than be caught using the same word twice in three lines.” (“God said ‘Let there be light,’ and there was solar illumination.”) Evans might have convinced me that there is nothing wrong with repeating the correct word.

Full of tools, great stories, even better examples of actual editing for content and communication, I’ll be returning to this (particularly as I has to write a research paper for a course administrator who seemingly thinks just like Evans…)

Evans gets a sixth, invisible star for skewering the tragedy of what writing and communication has become since the … come on, you can do it… tragedy… of 2016.

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The Girl in the Green Silk Gown by Seanan McGuire – advance review

The Girl in the Green Silk Gown (Ghost Roads #2)The Girl in the Green Silk Gown by Seanan McGuire

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I got a review copy of Ghost Roads #1 (Sparrow Hill Road> earlier this year and when this came available through First to Read, I requested, and got, an advance review copy.

Ghost stories are far outside my wheelhouse, but the first had me intrigued with alien vernacular that I still have a hard time sorting, and rules of an unfamiliar universe that may or may not be easier to assume while reading. I found this to be a better story, and a better read – maybe I’m starting to understand? – and though I had a week’s worth of distractions taking me away from reading more than a few pages at a stretch, I was finally able to dedicate time to reading it.

Note: I almost never spoil fiction with synopses – I feel that is unfair to the author; let the reader unravel the story herself. What I will share is that rare is the book that is a true page-turner (epages…it is a modern world, now) for me. I found myself wanting to know what was going to happen next – remember, this is unfamiliar landscape – and Ms. McGuire gave her titular character depth, connection, threw wrenches, even caught me with a rarer “didn’t see exactly that coming, though expected something” twist. For those characteristics, I give a higher nod in my rating.

I was only a few months to hang for the sequel that others had to wait four years for. I hope that the next – and there has to be…unfinished business, and all – comes sooner. Regardless, I shall find it and read it as the outlier in my eclectic but still focused reading interests.

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The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Stars: A Neuropsychologist’s Odyssey Through Consciousness by Paul Broks

The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Stars: A Neuropsychologist's Odyssey Through ConsciousnessThe Darker the Night, the Brighter the Stars: A Neuropsychologist’s Odyssey Through Consciousness by Paul Broks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got a review copy of this from First To Read. The description (First line: “Paul Broks weaves together imaginative stories of everything from artificial intelligence to the Greek philosophers in order to sketch a beautiful, inimitable view of humanness that is as heartbreaking at it is affirming.”) grabbed me, so I requested a copy. The rest of the description follows…”When celebrated neuropsychologist Paul Broks’s wife died of cancer, it sparked a journey of grief and reflection […]” I had never heard of Broks so his celebrity might be localized. I am also not all that acquainted with neuropsychology, and had to do a little background research (unnecessary for reading this) to familiarize myself.

Broks writes in his prologue

This is not a conventional book and I think you should know what you’re in for.

He’s right. It’s not. Continuing:

What (I hope) you are about to read is a mix of memoir, neurological case stories, and reflections on life, death and the mind.

In short and long passages, he does all that and more.

Broks’ shares his grief following his wife’s death in PART ONE: A GRIEF OBSERVED, meandering through nonlinear memories, fantasy and myth, and talking points of his trade. (He mentions Julian Jaynes, whose Origin of Consciousness is on my to-read list, nudging the book up a notch or two closer to “eventual”.) The grief is palpable.

In PART TWO: A THOUSAND RED BUTTERFLIES, Broks delves more into his trade, musing much on the nature of consciousness between scientific research and theory and philosophical explorations. I kept having to set the book aside and digest his thoughts. One section prompted a mental WTH? and given that in his prologue he said that facts sit alongside fiction and that he thought the fictional elements were easily identified, I’m not sure if he was serious that not all humans are sentient – at least, that’s what a colleague discovered in that particular story (although…there was considerable evidence of such in 2016 and since, but that would make his 10% far too low…) I won’t spoil where the title of this second part comes from…you’ll have to find that out yourself. I admit that I was, because I am by nature, less enamored of the philosophy elements, but the stories are still good anyway.

Broks recommends reading the first chapters first and the last chapters last and the rest can be skipped around. I imagine that would work for some. I chose to read them in the order presented, and in the last section PART THREE: INTO THE LABYRINTH he mixes more myth and fantasy into his reality. He relives some final days again. Cathartic. And his concept of consciousness congeals here. The pace increases until his coda.

I enjoyed this the more I read. On one hand outside my wheelhouse and life experience. On the other, appealing to my scientific curiosity. I might have to look up Mr. Borks’ other work, but he left me with three other book recommendations that I really want to find and read first. Meanwhile, I expect to reread this again soon.

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