My father had a book for every occasion.
Want to know about antiques? He had several. Want to know about farming? Well, he (as a farmer) had more than a few–everything from rotating crops, growing crops,perennials, garden landscaping to stonescaping. His library–we had a library in our house, doesn’t everyone? His library had a large non-fiction section. Photography. History. Cooking. If he ever had an interest in it, he had a book on it.
My first semester at college was as an art major. I didn’t last long, I found being told what to draw, how to draw it and when to draw it beyond tedious (I didn’t draw for over a year after that semester). So I told my parents I was switching to an English major. Not surprisingly, for Christmas that year I got a package of books on the English language. Sadly, I never read them all.
But I still have them.
And my Norton Anthologies from college–and my art history book. The only class I enjoyed as an art major. I have decided that, as my grammar classes are so far behind me, reading through these books will certainly improve my writing. I will remind myself of “proper” sentence structure and punctuation. I am sure I break a lot of the rules.
My syllabus for this grammar course:
Fumble Rules, William Safire
Elements of Style, Strunk & White
The Transitive Vampire, Karen Elizabeth Gordon
The Well-Tempered Sentence, Karen Elizabeth Gordon
A Hog On Ice, Charles Earle Funk
The Portable Curdmudgeon, Jon Winokur
The Roots of English, Robert Claiborne
The Mother Tongue, Bill Bryson
Clearly my father wanted me to have an eclectic mix. This might take a while. But, in the end, I will know when I am breaking a rule for style, rather than because I don’t know any better. Many writers break the “rules”.
Have you read Jose Saragamo? Fascinating subjects, very hard to get through as it is all in paragraph form: conversations,thoughts, actions. I had a very difficult time with The Cave. One of my favorite authors, Nalini Singh, puts her words together in intriguing ways. Her prose manages to be extremely readable and yet extremely complex.
Finding new ways to string words together is a writer’s job. Sometimes it’s just about the balance between that new way and something readers want to plow through. Hopefully this grammer course I have set myself will help me find the balance.