Monthly Archives: August 2018

The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase by Mark Forsyth

The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English PhraseThe Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase by Mark Forsyth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a delightful book! Forsyth dove (dived?) deep into the obscurities of rhetoric to enlighten this reader on the many many technical terms for the phrases, forms, devices, maneuvers (okay…I channeled Eddie Izzard on that one), figures, terms, etc. When he opened with

English teaching at school is, unfortunately, obsessed with what a poet thought, as though that were of any interest to anyone. Rather than being taught about how a poem is phrased, schoolchildren are asked to write essays on what William Blake thought about the Tiger; despite the fact that William Blake was a nutjob whose opinions, in a civilised society, would be of no interest to anybody apart from his parole officer. A poet is not somebody who has great thoughts. That is the menial duty of the philosopher. A poet is somebody who expresses his thoughts, however commonplace they may be, exquisitely. That is the one and only difference between the poet and everybody else.

he got my attention!

Packed with information, wonderfully expounded, reinforced with classic examples and peppered saltily with wit, this is a great resource. Forsyth says “This isn’t a dictionary of rhetoric, nor was it meant to be.” and yes, it is much more than a dictionary. And I don’t know what the term would be, or of there even is one, for the opposite of cliffhanger, but Forsyth mastered it, ending each chapter with a tie to the next chapter. He even hyperlinked the last word (okay, word and number) back to the first chapter! Circular!

Recommended. Now I need to read more by Forsyth…

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Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A SortabiographyAlways Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am so grateful to the publisher and First to Read for a copy of an uncorrected proof of this! My favorite Python! John is a close second, and I’d read his autobiography…in his voice, so I jumped at the chance to read this…in Eric’s voice, of course. Steve Martin said of Idle’s novel The Road the Mars.“I laughed. I cried. And then I read the book.”

Idle had me laughing literally out loud several times before he’d gotten out of the introduction (titled “An Apology”). Of course, the life whose bright side he sings of looking at enters and it’s not all rosy, but even when he shares devastation at the loss of dear friends, he bounces back. He’s candid, human, obviously quite funny, amazingly connected (“I once tried registering [in a hotel under a fake name] as Meryl Streep, but then I felt guilty because she is so damn nice and smart. Notice how cleverly I introduced the fact that I know her. That’s name-dropping at its finest, as I said to Prince Charles only the other day.”) Really, he is amazingly connected. The number of people he’s worked with, been friends with, got invited to cruises on their huge yachts with,…

Steve Martin said in his blurb for Idle’s novel The Road the Mars.“I laughed. I cried. And then I read the book.” You’ll laugh, maybe cry while you read this book.

Endearing, funny, enlightening, and endearing. Yes, I said that twice. When this comes out, get it. You’ll be glad you did. Though the song will echo for days.

But there are worse earworms.

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Books, books, more (and yet fewer) books

This may surprise some, and not others, but one quirky way I measure my years remaining is how many books I have left to me to read. If I average 100 per year, I have what? 4,000? That is a horribly small limit! I clearly love books. Eight years ago, I wrote “Books, books and more books” on Dangerous Intersection. It turns out that those seem to be some of the only few pictures I have of our library before the fire and they didn’t come close to reflecting what we really had.

Pre-fire Library 1

This photo was taken inside the doors to our library. To the right of the light switches, just below, were my Tolkien paperbacks that I had as a teen…with all my transliterations of Tolkien’s Elvish and Dwarvish in the margins. Every time…every time…I went in there, regardless of reason, I turned to look at them. I’m still sad at their loss. Continue reading

The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt…whew…

The Origins of TotalitarianismThe Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Written not long after World War II concluded, Ms. Arendt had contemporary access to knowledge of the domination of two major totalitarian regimes. There may be some portion of a confirmation bias in play, but the parallels to modern regimes and in particular, the rise of a 2016 to present (2018 at this writing) movement in what would have seemed to Ms. Arendt the least likely of places – the United States – cannot be overlooked or understated. This is a dense, huge book. I cannot do it justice with a simple review, as I highlighted quite many sections and added quite many notes of my own. I’ll share a few here.

Organized into three parts, Ms. Arendt discusses the history, pseudo-rationale, and consequences of antisemitism; the effects of imperialism on the origins of totalitarianism; and detailed analysis of those two totalitarian systems she had exposure to in the early years after the war. Continue reading