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Those aficionados who love words and the language or who are big-time Scrabble fans will love this book, while others will...

Strange words and how to find them.

When Stamper first interviewed for a job at Merriam-Webster, she was excited. It was her dream job, and she got it. She was now a practicing lexicographer working at the oldest dictionary publisher in America. These “drudges at their desks” practiced a noble art, part creative process, part science. Her book is a “nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty, worm’s-eye view of lexicography.” Along with other “word nerds,” Stamper writes and edits dictionary definitions, thinks “deeply about adverbs, and slowly, inexorably” goes blind. To be successful, you must, first and foremost, possess something called sprachgefühl, or “a feeling for language.” If you don’t have it, you won’t last six months. Stamper goes into great detail describing the inner workings of how dictionaries come into being, with each chapter focusing on a specific task or topic. She provides a short history of grammar and then spends an entire chapter on how much lexicographers hate the word “irregardless.” The author also covers the history of dictionaries with a special shoutout to “His Cantankerousness,” Samuel Johnson, whose 1755 dictionary set the standard for all future dictionaries. “Bitch” discusses how crude, vulgar, and embarrassing words get included, and other chapters deal with defining, small words, etymology, and pronunciation. And then there’s the reading. After lexicographers answer all kinds of correspondence, they read everything, from magazines to TV dinner boxes to beer bottles and takeout menus. Stamper notes that the internet, which has put many dictionary publishers out of business, must be trolled for new words, too. She loves her work, and her enthusiasm adds a real zest to her tales of usage and the chase for words—e.g., “onymous,” “cromulent,” “vecturist,” and “dope slap.” Look them up.

Those aficionados who love words and the language or who are big-time Scrabble fans will love this book, while others will feel like they’re in over their heads.

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-87094-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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