Thursday, November 20, 2008

Man with globe and suitcase does stuff with books

So I'm thoroughly enjoying my new dictionary. I laughed through 'H', cried through 'J' and I can't wait to see what you make of the cliff-hanger at the end of 'P' (do you think Pythagoras's victory will be a Pyrrhic one?).

I'm now deeply immersed in 'S': oh sepulchre, sequacious, seraglio, serendipity, Serengeti National Park... like a gentle stream tripping delightfully down the page, one sparkling word giving way to the next... Seuss, Dr, seven deadly sins, 7-Eleven...

"And what ho!" I hear you cry, "can it get any better than this?" Indeed it can, dear friends, because this dictionary bears the name 'Bill Bryson' on the cover. That's right, it's Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors.

Forget writing the Great Australian/American/Danish Novel or discovering the cure for blah blah disease-that-affects-baby-seals blah, write yourself a dictionary and you'll be assured long and loud public adoration.

History provides us with a raft of examples: Samuel Johnson and his Dictionary of the English Language (you know, that old chestnut), and my personal favourite, Flaubert's Dictionary of Received Ideas which very neatly defines 'absinthe' as "extra-violent poison: one glass and you're dead. Newspapermen drink it as they write their copy. Has killed more soldiers than the Bedouin."

Who can but feel safe when such wordy celebrities put quill to parchment, fingers to keyboard, tongue in cheek?

Who can but understand my disquiet, then, on reading the following on the dust-jacket of Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors:

"Originally published as The Penguin Dictionary for Writers and Editors, Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors has now been completely revised and updated for the twenty-first century BY BILL BRYSON HIMSELF."

Well crap I hadn't even considered the possibility that Bill Bryson DIDN'T have anything to do with this book, you know, the one that's been published with his name on the front cover, until I read that he really WAS involved. Way to kill the illusion, dust-jacket-blurb-writer.

Nevermind, let's get back to 'S' and see if the Shar Pei make it to the Shea Stadium with the help of the Sherpas... Do you think they'll stay shtum? Sterling stuff.


Anonymous said...

I must revise my earlier comments in which I felt my Thesaurus was more engrosing than my dictionary! It is in no way a match for your Bill Bryson dictionary (whoever wrote it!) Or is it your quirky sense of fun which makes the reading of dictionaries such a spectacular past-time?

The Dangerous Kettle said...

Dear Anon, all I can say is I'm delighted to find the words 'dictionaries' and 'spectacular' in the same sentence. You are a truly learned gentleman/woman.