Thursday, February 28, 2008


The Book: Sheridan Baker, THE PRACTICAL STYLIST, Fourth Edition. Harper & Row trade paperback, 1977. Good condition; pages and cover are slightly age-browned, text is lightly marked, owner's signature and doodles are on front flyleaf.
First Read: 1980
Owned Since: 1980

I thought I remembered using this as a textbook in an earlier English class, but the doodles on the front flyleaf refer to my junior year teacher, Mr. Babcock. I will always be grateful to Mr. Babcock for introducing us to Moby Dick in a way that made us feel the power of the story, instead of getting bogged down in the minutiae of whaling. He was also the best teacher of poetry I ever had; he once made me read Robert Frost's poem "Bereft" aloud twice because I got the meter wrong the first time around. It was enough to make me remember those lines to this day.

Anyway, this book is a manual for writing clear expository prose. Mr. Babcock did not agree with all of it. Inside the front cover is a checklist of 21 items with a big "NO" beside #10, "Sentences show some variety?" Next to that I wrote, "No, unless called for." Mr. Babcock despised the elegant variation, and I carry that cause forward. You can't go wrong by keeping things simple.

I'm not sure why I kept this book. I probably haven't opened it in 20 years. Some books are like security blankets, and I would miss this one if I lost it.


Anonymous said...

I am currently taking a writing seminar put on by the state. We have to look over style guides and determine whether to get one. I will take your blogging them as a recommendation to give them a look.

The February malaise is hard to fight. Days are getting longer, more things are happening- the State Street Dairy-Queen is almost ready to open (Although I just learned they are owned by Berkshire Hathaway, so I may never visit one again on Principle). The lag is that we are still feeling the lag of the weather that is behind us rather than what is to come!!

Lines learned yet?


AnswerGirl said...

BWAA ha ha ha ha ha ... I know my lines for Act One.

Spring does not officially begin for me until Classic Custard reopens in Freeport. That doesn't happen until the second half of April, at the earliest.

Anna said...

Ok, I give. What's wrong with Berkshire Hathaway?

AnswerGirl said...

I'm not sure, other than their being capitalists. But I admit I've always kind of admired Warren Buffett. Richard?

Anonymous said...

I always like to try to keep money local as much as possible. I know that DQ is not local and I have to accept that there is a corporation above the local store. When there is another entity above it, and it is a large, wealthy corp, It makes me rethink giving money to people who already have a lot of it. Nothing against Warren Buffet personally although recently BH has done a few things I don't agree with. Another story for another day.

After this next storm, the pile at the end of my driveway will be taller than Bethel's Olympia Snowe-man.