Monday, September 16, 2013

Alphabetter Juice or, The Joy of Text

By Roy Blount Jr.

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

I have just begun reading this book — I am only in the "As" — but I have already fallen in love with this book. Blount is not only a terrific writer, but he has a sophisticated, intelligent, knowledgeable sense of humor. This is not all humor for humor’s sake, it just seems so natural and conversational — designed specifically for the educated audience of readers.

Having just reviewed Neil Pasricha’s The Book of (Even More) Awesome (I enjoyed Pasricha’s book!), I thought Blount’s description of the word "awesome" was apt: "Sadly diminished by overuse. Time magazine should not be reduced to describing an Olympic boxer’s victories as ‘jaw-droppingly awesome." (p. 24).

In the "Introduction," Blount writes, "I’m a writer. I like to handle words and pass them on by hand. The letters of the alphabet are my stuff" (p. 10). Throughout the book, he reinforces this statement, not just in the words he chooses to illustrate, but in all the descriptions, examples, quotations, and experiences he relates. If you want to be introduced to the writer’s world, this book would be a great choice, for when you are a writer and when you are immersed in the universe of words and all the related ancillaries that make up that universe, books like this one naturally evolve.

I didn’t read Blount’s Alphabet Juice (his previous book similar to this one) - New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008, but you can bet that I will look it up and acquire it. This book — beautifully constructed and expertly written — is an impressive (I was just about to use the word "awesome"!) sales tool for his first of these two books.

What a wonderful, thoroughly erudite, and compellingly entertaining sense of humor Blount has! He is a joy to read, and what an amusing and engaging way to spend several hours!

I took the author’s direction (on page 64) and Googled "Video Stroboscopy of the Vocal Cords," and I was thoroughly enthralled with two separate YouTube presentations. I had never seen the vocal cords in action, and this was a terrific introduction.

His description of the fly and his wife’s fine and straight hair was charming (p. 75). There is so much in this book.

The range of sources Blount uses — besides being overwhelming in their depth and breadth — makes one realize the depth and breadth of his or her own resources. How meager, how un-informed, and how limited, deficient, and pitiful is the information we have available to us. You just get this feeling — despite all the education, traveling, books and magazines read — that we are all deficient (underfed and undernourished) in so many different ways. Blount leaves you breathless!

Even Blount’s nostalgia trips are delightful: "Well, going back to my boyhood again . . ." (p. 75). As a writer, I can easily see how the words he chooses to talk about, triggered many different memories. I would wager a guess that he had difficulty at various points in putting this book together, deciding which of his nostalgia trips to use, and it is guessed, that this book would have (could have?) been much longer had Blount not used careful discretion in selecting among his many experiences.

This book is a wonderful excursion into a writer’s many-faceted mind.
















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