While reading Edith Wharton’s memoir, A Backward Glance, I came across a description of another writer that blazed from the page. She wrote of Joseph Conrad that “…he had worshiped the English language all his life like a lover.”
As I read these words, I was struck by the passion of her imagery. Of course, Edith Wharton’s entire life was devoted to the English language from the time when she first discovered hundreds of leather bound books in her father’s library. She went on to become a distinguished novelist whose books limned the manners and mores of her day. The Age of Innocence brought her the Pulitzer Prize; Ethan Frome, the ironic novella of life in a small New England town, appears on reading lists in many of our high schools.
I remember in eighth grade when we were first introduced by our English teacher to the technique of ‘diagraming’ a sentence. First, we had to separate each word as to the particular part of speech: noun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, article. Then, out came the rulers to draw a graphic design of the sentence. The straight line and placement of the subject and predicate. Once these essentials were in place, we had to position the object. And then the many diagonal lines for the modifiers and the phrases.
We started with simple sentences and progressed to more complex ones. I must confess that I was probably the only one in the class who appeared to enjoy this entire endeavor. There was something about the order and symmetry of the design that I found profoundly satisfying.Every word had a place in relation to every other word. It all could be broken down and put back together again. Voila! The structure of the sentence was revealed in its purest form.
In high school, when I studied Latin, the appeal was the same. To take the sentence apart — finding the verbs, nouns and modifiers. Then, reconstructing the sentence in English.It was a puzzle that could be deciphered in measured steps. And it served to heighten my appreciation for the order of the English language as well. Some said that was the main reason to study Latin, labeled a ‘dead language’. But I always felt it had intrinsic worth in itself. My mother, the only person I knew who had studied Latin for eight years and Greek for seven, agreed. She was a wise woman in many ways, one of which was to value the Classics.
Many decades later, as I write this blog, I still retain the wonder and love for the beauty and majesty of the English language. In the year 2000, when I began the interviews and writing that led to my first book, Courage In High Heels, I was embarking in a new direction. I had been writing Op Eds for newspapers and articles for magazines for over twenty years. My latest book, “The Critical Eye” is a collection of Op Eds from The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer, and articles from national and regional magazines and newspapers that are as relevant today as when they were written.
Today, as I introduce my blog: “Dimensions 2” , I am following fifteen years as a weekly columnist for a southern New Jersey newspaper. I shall continue to share observations, insights and information about the social and political events in our nation and around the world. I look forward to reaching new readers through the wonder of cyberspace and online social media.
Beautiful, Joyce! Good luck with this new venture…….
I am in awe of anyone who enjoyed diagraming sentences! Wonderful to learn that about you, Joyce! Enjoy your amazing blog!
I enjoyed reading your love of writing and how you like the architecture of the sentence….
Mom, A fine, compelling statement. Love, Dave
Hi Joyce. Thanks for the alert to your new blog. You are right. I did relate to “In love with writing.” I also must admit that I also enjoyed diagramming sentences and learning about word origins (Latin or otherwise). I will continue to peruse your blog. I particularly look forward to more “musings” on life from you.