Wednesday, September 07, 2011

A writer's writer

kw: observations, opinion, writing, writers

I wish to comment further on Globish by Robert McCrum, which I reviewed yesterday. Reading the book was an experience not far removed from reading a good novel. I was not just learning, but was transported elsewhere.

Though the book is filled with evidence of great erudition, it is not a dry, scholarly tome. I have had to read plenty of learned works, the kind that induce slumber. Most share some common defects, all of which McCrum has adroitly avoided. He used endnotes, but done in a style that does not leave the text riddled with superscripted 1,2,3; the notes themselves are succinct and seldom exceed two lines; the references to published work are smoothly done, avoiding author (date) references in favor of more personal and personable narrative; he avoided footnotes, because if something is worth saying it is worth saying as you go and be done with it, and this goes for long endnotes also.

I was reminded of the best of nineteenth century writing (a century which also produced some of the least readable books every printed). Reading ought to be a joy, and give evidence that the author enjoyed the writing as much as you enjoy the reading. A well-written book makes me feel as if I were snuggled with the author in an overstuffed chair as we read together. I do hope Mr. McCrum would not find such a sentiment creepy.

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