Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Spectator No. 573 (Wednesday, 28 July 1714)

"The Truth of the Story is, my new Husband gave me Reason to repent I had not staid for him [Mr. Waitfort]; he had married me for my Money, and I soon found he loved Money to Distraction; there was nothing he would not do to get it, nothing he would not suffer to preserve it; the smallest Expence keep him awake whole Nights, and when he paid a Bill, 'twas with as many Sighs, and after as many Delays, as a Man that endures the Loss of a Limb."

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu writing anonymously as Mrs. President of the Club of Widows. The full text is available at Project Gutenberg. She is writing in response to Joseph Addison's earlier article lampooning a fictional Club of Widows who drive men into early graves by exhausting them, both financially and sexually. Her rebuttal is satire with plenty of laughs as well as real teeth.

Thanks to a free online course Literature of the English Country House presented by the University of Sheffield on FutureLearn, I'm discovering a treasure chest of future reads.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st CenturyThe Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book provides reference material as well as conceptual information about writing and word usage. The author's message to purists is "Language is always changing, get used to it." Language has been going to hell for a very long time: “According to the English scholar Richard Lloyd-Jones, some of the clay tablets deciphered from ancient Sumerian include complaints about the deteriorating writing skills of the young.”

Pinker provides plenty of details about the nuts and bolts of sentence structure and larger "arcs of coherence" that help readers decode the meaning an author intends.

My favorite concept from this book is the "zombie noun" a nickname coined by Helen Sword for an unnecessary nominalization that hides the agent of action. "The proliferation of nominalizations in a discursive formation may be an indication of a tendency toward pomposity and abstraction." That translates in plain English to "Writers who overload their sentences with nouns derived from verbs and adjectives tend to sound pompous and abstract."

Since he is exposed to a great deal of academic writing, he explores how knowing a great deal about a subject can make an author the worst possible person to write about it. “The better you know something, the less you remember about how hard it was to learn. The curse of knowledge is the single best explanation I know of why good people write bad prose.”

I also enjoyed his ironic sense of humor. “Unfortunately for cosmic justice, many gifted writers are scoundrels, and many inept ones are the salt of the earth.”

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Nature Journal

The hardest part is diving into that pristine white page. Phew! That's over. And even if my day lilies resemble a Star Trek tribble more than a botanical specimen, I enjoyed myself!

Fridays This Summer: Nature Journal

Nature Journal: A Guided Journal for Illustrating and Recording Your Observations of the Natural WorldNature Journal: A Guided Journal for Illustrating and Recording Your Observations of the Natural World by Clare Walker Leslie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This (mostly) blank journal has examples and prompts by the author to get you started in your own journal. Nice to have these samples in the journal, so you don't have to take another book along with you when you head outdoors. That being said, the other books by Clare Walker Leslie are 5-star wonders, if you are interested in learning more.

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I'm hoping that we can get out for walks on our local trail at least once a week this summer. We have our new journals to fill with our finds. Last week dd slipped and fell in the mud. Today it was ds. Next week should be my turn. Maybe I'll smear some of the mud in my journal if that happens. As dd said, "Getting dirty is part of being outdoors."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Monday, June 8, 2015


SeabirdSeabird by Holling Clancy Holling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The descriptions of whaling disturbed my daughter so much we didn't finish this book when she did AO2. This year my son was fine with it. Overall, an interesting history of early ships and commerce. My son was most impressed that the main character Ezra lived over 100 years! He must have been a tough old salt.

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Wildflower Posy

Willoughby stopped by this morning with some lovely blooms. Yes, Jane is holding the wrong book, but he forgave her.