Friday, September 21, 2007

THE CONCISE OXFORD DICTIONARY, Third Edition, Revised by H. W. Fowler and H G. Le Mesurier

The Book: THE CONCISE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF CURRENT ENGLISH, adapted by H. W. Fowler and F. G. Fowler from The Oxford Dictionary, Third Edition revised by H. W. Fowler and H. G. Le Mesurier. Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1940. Book is in good condition; some age-related mottling and browning, boards are slightly loose but spine is uncocked. Original owner's name, "Alice Lee Jordan," is written in black ink on front fly-leaf; "Ellen Clair Lamb" is written in blue ink inside front board.
First read: Still reading
Owned since: 1981 or 1982

I do own a modern dictionary. As you might expect, I own a massive main dictionary and several specialized dictionaries, plus dictionaries in French, German, Russian and Spanish. This one is still my favorite, and it's the one I still use most often.

It was another Field Day book sale acquisition, when I was a junior or senior in high school. I bought it along with an antique copy of Fowler's English Usage, and I remember my English teacher, Mrs. Masterson, saying, "You'll enjoy those." This might seem like an odd remark, but she knew me; I have enjoyed owning both books, and I still have them.

A good dictionary is a treasure box. People never say this when asked what book they'd want on a desert island, but "a good dictionary" is the obvious answer: the whole world's in there. The Oxford Dictionary is history, anthropology and linguistics. The entry for "go," for example, runs two and a half pages, and discusses prohibition, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV, prostitution, cricket, and romantic love, among other topics.

It's dangerous for me to open this book, because time stops. I expect it to be noon by the time I look up again.

What I Read This Week

If I could take the train to New York and back every week, I might catch up on my to-be-read pile sometime before I die.

Eli Gottlieb, Now You See Him. This novel won't be out until next February; Carol Fitzgerald gave me an advance copy, saying it's going to be huge. It should be. Nick Framingham's best friend from childhood, Rob Cantor, murdered his girlfriend and killed himself six months ago, and Nick's own life is falling apart as he tries to make sense of it. As he looks for answers, Nick finds secrets that have been kept for his whole life, and can't forgive anyone because he can't forgive himself -- although it's not until the very last pages that we really understand why. Beautiful, angry, sad.

M.C. Beaton, Love, Lies and Liquor. The irrepressible Agatha Raisin agrees to a weekend holiday with her ex-husband, James Lacey, and finds herself accused of murder. The murder mystery is much less important than the ongoing drama and silliness of the Agatha-and-James story, which is reason enough to read the book.

Alison Gaylin, Trashed. New journalism school graduate Simone Glass takes a job with The Asteroid, and finds a murder victim's shoe in a celebrity's garbage. In days, that celebrity is also dead under mysterious circumstances, and Simone's more involved in the case than even she realizes. Trashed is not only terrifically entertaining, it's a sharp picture of the symbiotic relationship between celebrities and the tabloid press -- and the ending came as a complete surprise, though a fair one. Well done.

Daniel Woodrell, Under the Bright Lights. It's a great and continuing mystery, why Daniel Woodrell continues to be a "writer's writer" instead of a giant equal in stature to Cormac McCarthy or James Lee Burke. I snagged this out-of-print paperback at Partners & Crime last week. It introduced police detecive Rene Shade, in a fictional city that bears strong resemblance to St. Louis. Writers study Woodrell because he manages to cram extraordinary amounts of plot and atmosphere into a tiny space, and we want to figure out how he does it; this book, in fewer than 200 pages, manages to be as event-filled and moody as Burke's 400-page Robicheaux novels.

Chelsea Cain, HeartSick. Hype for this novel has been huge, and reviewers are falling all over themselves to hail it as the second coming of the serial killer novel. Contrary as usual, I didn't like it. Detective Archie Sheridan barely survived his encounter with Gretchen Lowell, a serial killer who claims more than 200 victims. Two years later, Archie returns to the force to track a new serial killer, and a local reporter's assigned to cover his return to the job. Gretchen's influence on Archie remains strong, and the new killer's crimes have unexpected connections to what happened to Archie. The mystery ties up far too neatly -- but that's only part of my problems with this book, which struck me as gratuitous in its loving depictions of torture without having anything valuable or kind to say about the human condition.


Anonymous said...

I think I asked you on a previous blog entry, how many of your friends actually read dictionaries -- I invariably pick one up to look up a specific word and then get distracted by another word, and then another...

Looking forward to seeing you next week. Once may not be enough.


Lefty said...

I couldn't live without a good dictionary. It's like a friend.