January 23, 2009

Writers and Readers at RAW

Took a rare (for me) night off from yoga (it was a close call) and attended the Writers and Readers event at Real Art Ways. A nice couplet - Ammon Shea with his book "Reading the OED" and Michael Erard reading from "Um...: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean"

First, props to Real Art Ways for bringing this sort of event together. Having participated in the smallish, disinterested audiences that often show up at book events at libraries and bookstores, how wonderful for the writers to have a packed house of really interested people.

Mr. Shea mostly spoke about his book (did not read) but his talk was seeded with examples from his book, anecdotes about the process of reading, and references to his dictionary collecting. Quite the character. I picked up a copy of his book for the Zipster - who reads several books a week, has a rather large dictionary in the living room to who he refers often, and who is one of those people constantly lamenting the misuse of language, the deterioration of written and spoken communication, etc. So Shea's book is right up his alley.

Mr. Erard did read from his book (along with a work in process about polyglots). Interestingly, he seemed almost to be an apologist for the former president's "Bushisms" - Bush was apparently not known for them as Governor of TX, only once he entered the national stage. Maybe that was when he started speaking someone else's words instead of his own. And amusingly, as President Obama settles in, his own verbal stalling and stumbling when he is speaking extemporaneously is surprising, considering how much of a reputation he has as a polished orator.

I did not get a really good sense of what Erard's book was from his reading (although the word "disfluent", which he used, is a good one). I did come away with the fact that stalling words "Um.....Ah....." are an essential part of thoughtful communication.

All in all, a fascinating evening of literary discourse. Real Art Ways rocks!

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