Book Notes: The Genius of Language by Wendy Lesser

Characteristics: (where 1 is bad and 5 is superb)

  • Interestingness: 2
  • Subject Matter: 2
  • Organization: 3
  • Binding: 4
  • Writing Quality: 4

For a linguaphile like myself, this book seemed perfect. The editor gathered essays from fifteen people who were at least bilingual so she could get the experience of the interplay between the languages, and what affect that had on them both professionally as writers and personally.

Why would I not like to see "Fifteen Writers Reflect On Their Mother Tongues", as the subtitle says? For a while I actually enjoyed the book. In many ways this really is right up my proverbial alley. But as the book progressed, I just found myself bored. I did enjoy some of the essays more than others, like the one by Amy Tan (Chinese and English) and by Nicholas Papandreou (Greek and English - and if you know me very well at all, you will see why I liked this one so much). Others were ok. The thing I most enjoyed about the whole experience was the quality of the writing. What many of the essays lacked in terms of being interesting subject-matter-wise, most of them made up for in part by quality wordsmithing. I was not familiar with the words "autarchy" and "anodyne" before this book. You?

Overall I was somewhat disappointed. It is sad when you get most of the way through a book and find yourself frequently checking to see how many pages are left.