Author Topic: When adulation turns into obsession, expect puffiness  (Read 4496 times)

Joe Carillo

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When adulation turns into obsession, expect puffiness
« on: October 24, 2009, 01:23:48 AM »
It has its devout adherents and virulent detractors, but one fact is indisputable: Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style is one the most successful English-usage books of all time, selling 200,000 copies in its first year and chalking up sales of over 10 million more over the past 50 years. This is definitely no small feat for a book that’s only a little over a hundred pages, and the wonder of it all is that its original core content—Cornell University professor William Strunk Jr.’s little booklet about basic English grammar—had lain largely unheralded for 38 years until Strunk’s former student, E.B. White, wrote a loving essay about it in The New Yorker in 1957. That essay charmed an editor of Macmillan Publishing into commissioning White to add a chapter on style to the grammar booklet so it could be made into a book, expecting it to catch fire in an age when English instructors had gone “whoring after strange gods.” It did.


Now, in a book self-consciously titled Stylized: A Slightly Obsessive History of Strunk & White’s “The Elements of Style,” writer and editor Mike Garvey has come up with a 200-page account of the entire history of the now fabled little tome. From a review of Garvey’s book by Jennifer Balderama, an editor at The New York Times Book Review, we learn—among other minutiae about the little book—that E. B. White had actually once written that he hated the guts of English grammar but was later to remark that he admired “Elements” for the “audacity” of its author and for its “clear, brief, bold” advice leavened by “Strunkian humor.” As to Garvey’s work itself, though, Balderama says that for a book extolling brevity, Stylized is baggy in parts and dwells on so many extended personal meditations that “disrupt the flow and leave one pining to return to Strunk and White.”

Read Jennifer Balderama’s review of Stylized: A Slightly Obsessive History… now!

« Last Edit: October 24, 2009, 02:48:24 AM by jciadmin »