Alex (yakshaver) wrote,

An Excellent Read

I've been to post more, not least because it's good for me. But typing's still painful (though mostly long bouts of it) + pain meds &c....*

But this won't take much effort --- mostly because I did the effortful part months ago. So now I just need to write a few sentences.

A few months ago, I finished a book, feeling very satisfied in that wow, that was thought-provoking way. So I immediately started paging through it, in hope of finding some representative passage to share with my friends. And found myself re-reading with great intensity the opening paragraphs of the first chapter.

Then I got to the first break --- two paragraphs separated by a little extra whitespace, about a third of the way down the second page. And realized that the author had --- here I paused to flip back and count the paragraphs --- that the author had, in those opening seven paragraphs, presented the perfect introduction to the book. The style, the substance, the mood --- all set out for the prospective reader in those seven paragraphs. A miniature masterpiece of the writer's craft.

I put a post-it flag after the seventh paragraph, and proceeded the next morning to test my theory on a co-worker: "Joe --- here; read this from the start of chapter 1 up to the post-it. If it draws you in, you'll want to read the book."

It did draw him in, and two days later the book reappeared on my desk, with a beautifully hand-written note: "And a delightful read it was."

With that, rather than type in those seven paragraphs, I started Googling. And discovered yet another delight: The editors of the edition Google scanned (presumably the first hardcover edition) had clearly recognized the same thing I had. And had responded to that fantastic act of craft with their own complementary craftsmanship, by taking the trouble to typeset the book such that those seven paragraphs would have a page all to themselves.

So, without further ado, I give you the first page of The Wordy Shipmates, by Sarah Vowell. If this passage grabs you, so will the book.

* Something I was half-listening to on the radio the other day got into a discussion of special characters and their history, and the nerdy interviewee mentioned something I knew but hadn't thought about in forever --- that frequently in old printed documents, et cetera would be typeset as "&c." So, this being the first occasion I'd had since to write it, I couldn't resist. ;^)

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