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The Language Instinct: October 30, 2008

October 30, 2008

The plan yesterday was to (finally) start reading Sherry Thomas’s Delicious. I adored Private Arrangements and made a point of getting Delicious at the at the RWA booksigning in San Francisco in July. (It’s entirely normal for me to buy books that I don’t read for months or even years.)

But plans are what you make to keep yourself busy until you finally act. Which means I planned one thing and did another. A quote on Newsweek.com sent me to the library’s online catalog to see if Steven Pinker’s The Stuff of Thought was on the shelf; a happy  answer there sent me to the library itself; poking in the stacks gave me the book I wanted as well as a few I hadn’t planned on.

One of the surprises was Pinker’s The Language Instinct, which is what I am now reading with a great deal of delight. It’s crammed with ideas and information, offered up in lively, witty, zestful prose that is a pure pleasure to read. For me, it’s pages and pages of messing about with the architecture of language itself, playing with my favorite toy in a way that doesn’t smother the fun while also staying true to the science. If you love language, if you love grammar (actual grammar, not formal grammar, which is “the etiquette of written prose”; the grammar “that can build an unlimited set of sentences out of a finite list of words”; both quotes from The Language Instinct), you will love Pinsky. You will love him because he shares your love.

Or maybe that’s just why I love him.

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