Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Intro to Blog. Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman.

The purpose of this blog is to provide brief book reviews and quotes from the book for discussion in book clubs. Each blog will feature a different book, either nonfiction or fiction. The blog will have two sections: a brief summary of my reasons for reading the book, entitled, “Why read it?” and a second section listing quotes or ideas from the book for discussion.

Readers can suggest books for me to review and include in the blog.

Readers can also respond to the ideas for discussion. Or they can write their own “Why read it?” and suggest ideas and quotes from a book that they have read, and I will publish them, with attribution. My whole purpose is to draw people into reading and discussing the ideas in books.

Sample blog:
Strictly Speaking; Will America be the Death of English?
Edwin Newman
Indianapolis/New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc.

Why read it? If you love a good “rant,” this book is one of the better ones on a topic that everyone loves to rant about—the American language. From the cover: “Newman’s wry eye focuses on the sorry state of the English language as a reflection of the sorry state of society. If words are devalued, he [Newman] argues, so are ideas and so are human beings. He rejoices in language that is lucid, graceful, direct, civilized. He urges us to be careful about what we say and how we say it.

“ ‘Most of us will never speak succinctly or concretely; we may, however, aspire to; for direct and precise language, if people could be persuaded to try it, would make conversation more interesting, which is no small thing; it would help to substitute facts for bluster, also no small thing; and it would promote the practice of organized thought and even of occasional silence, which would be an immeasurable blessing.’ ”

Mr. Newman was a network newsman. This book was made into a relatively short video documentary. The audiences to whom I showed it loved it for the same reason that they loved the book: they both reminded the audience or readers that we can consciously think as we speak, choosing words to express our ideas with precision.

Quotes or Ideas for Discussion:
“Harry Truman used to say ‘Irrevelant’ and stress the third syllable in ‘incomparable’; but Mr. Truman never had any trouble getting his points across.”

“Television exalted the picture and depreciated the word.”

“The prevalence of ‘y’know’ is one of the most far-reaching and depressing developments of our time, disfiguring conversations wherever you go….”

“A ‘serious crisis’ is the only one to have and so are ‘true facts.’ ”

“No practice in Washington is more beloved than that of attributing statements to sources who cannot be named.”

“Politics has a way of bringing on meaningless language.”

“There is no way to measure the destructive effect of sports broadcasting on ordinary American English, but it must be considerable.”

“You’ve got to be kidding.” “It’s a bad scene.” How does that grab you?” “Just for openers.” “It’s a fun idea.” “Fantastic.” “It’s the ‘in’ place.” “Is he for real?” “Back to square one.” “That’s the name of the game.” “Who’s counting?” “Bottom line.” “Wild.” “Would you believe?” “Out of sight.” “Lots of luck.” “What can I tell you?” “What have you done for me lately?” “…is alive and well.” “It’s a whole new ball game.”

Can you add to this list of overused expressions? RayS.

I truly hope that this blog will assist people who engage in book club discussions by providing summaries of my favorite books and ideas from the books for discussion. And for those thinking about organizing a book club, you might consider using the format of this blog as a way of organizing your book club. Hope to hear from you. RayS.

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