If there is one thing that I can’t get enough of, it’s advice on improving my writing. I communicate a lot by writing; indeed, I believe I share this trait with most lawyers. Legal prose needn’t be the “word gravel” (Gerry Spence) that we so often encounter. Some authors, like Bryan Garner, aim almost exclusively at lawyers as their audience, and thus specifically target legal needs and problems. However, we can benefit from other, non-lawyer sources as well. This book is one such instance of a book intended for anyone who might appreciate some first-rate instruction about writing.
The internet deserves another shout-out of praise for somehow guiding me to this wonderful book. I often treat the internet as I do the labyrinthine Seminary Coop Bookstore: I can wonder here and there and there; discover the most delightful titles and ideas. I think that this tip came from Farnum Street, which obtained the tip from an article written by Joseph Epstein. But no matter, along with my trusty Kindle (a useful supplement to the paper book) I have now completed this delightful and instructive book.
Reading this book was like sitting in class with the most urbane and humane don that I could imagine. He combines a literature class (from the Greeks to the British and French masters) with a writing class. And while this is not work shop, no exercises, no bullet points, you realize that he writes the writing that he teaches. Clarity, brevity, and courtesy toward the reader are his guiding principles, and he practices these virtues, displays them really, while guiding us along a path littered with great writers from past ages.
This is not an easy, how-to book. Quotations in French require a trip to the endnotes for translation, and a great number of the examples quoted are new to me, even if the names of the authors are familiar. However, the effort proved worthwhile, and I completed the book feeling a great sense of satisfaction at having been entertained and delighted while I received great instruction. The perfect professor.