Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Elements of Style

My first read of the summer, if you can call it that with school still technically in session, was a delightfully slim volume, The Elements of Style. Originally written by English professor William Strunk Jr in the 1930s, the book has seen constant updates and edits over the years, most notably by one of Strunk's pupils, E.B. White, who we know as the author of Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web. White had a thing for writing about talking things that creep and crawl, apparently. I'm sure he finally threw down The Elements of Style one day during an edit and said, "F--- it. I'm making a spider talk."

The Elements of Style is the witty tale of a language and its hunt for a functional yet engaging means of writing. Our protagonist, Grammar, sets out with a few Elementary Rules of Usage as Strunk and White eagerly, even sarcastically, hurl obstacles in its path. With A Few Matters of Form and some Misused Words and Expressions sprinkled in, the plot climaxes with a thrilling Approach to Style, in which our heroes face the deepest and darkest recesses of the English language.

Although the story felt underdeveloped at some junctures, the endearing and memorable characters buttress this little book with a lofty goal, and give the reader some divine revelations about the written word. It's a tale sure to bring out the nonrestrictive modifier in all of us.