WORDSTRUCK: A Memoir by Robert MacNeil


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From the co-host of the MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour (author of The Right Place at the Right Time and The Story of English), a warm and embracing memoir of a childhood in Halifax, Nova Scotia, constantly touching upon the author's ongoing romance with the English language and its literature. Although not unusual for its time and class, MacNeil's childhood was distinct and full of character--and is charmingly related here. His father, married on the promise of a sales job, lost all prospects in '29. Out of work for four years, he joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as a recruit, and quickly rose in the Marine Division--commanding ships by WW II. All those nights at sea, Dad was reading Conrad, Proust, and Joyce while Mom, waiting at home, read to their son. Between the two, Robert MacNeil became fascinated with books, an early reader. He relates engaging and sometimes funny specifics of his childhood--ice-skating; choir practice; shoplifting--and how, as a young man, aimed for the Navy like his father, he changed his path when he was bitten by the acting bug, leading to his career in broadcasting and journalism. But the center remains his experience of the language. Talking about Winnie the Pooh, Robert Louis Stevenson, Shakespeare, Eliot, and Dylan Thomas, MacNeil shares his ongoing discovery of the uses and forms of the English language. Although discourses on word origins tend to interrupt the flow, this is an interesting life related in a pleasant and readable manner.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1989
Publisher: Viking