Reading suggestions for language lovers


Roy Blount Jr. has a wonderful book out, “Alphabet Juice,” that I recommend to anyone who writes or who enjoys the peculiarities of language. It is a soaring and crinkling dance among the syllables and the ways they may be strung together. 

Mr. Blount is particularly and personally interested in the physical side of language – how it feels to our tongues, in the backs of our throats, the many ways we experience it from the inside of our mucus-filled bodies.

Best of all, he brings cogent discussion to his linguistic judgments (see “different from or different than” for examples).

The book is physical in another way; that is, it is designed for flipping back and forth among topics. For this reason it is better owned in hardback, as it will last longer.

I happened upon “Alphabet Juice” while in the midst of my quadrennial reading of the books of Edmund Crispin, who I believe to be the best, along with his cohorts Michael Innes and J.I.M. Stewart, at wonderfully funny and intricate plots which the reader knows, after one or two have been read, will grow increasingly wild and panicky as the conclusion approaches.  Unfortunately we will not have any more works by Mr. Crispin, so I have managed to collect at least one copy of each, usually browning paperbacks that have been read lovingly, so that the spines are intact and no pages are missing. Eventually, however, they will become too crisp and dark. In the meanwhile, I urge you to try them. 

I am both jealous and astonished that Edmund Crispin wrote his first mystery as an undergraduate, wrote in all some 40 books, and was, in addition, an accomplished organist who also wrote movie scores. We don’t see very many polymaths with this level of humor. Many of the books are available at Uncle Edgar, and at Abe Books.