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The Elegance of Grammar

This will seem odd to most people.  At least that’s what I thought for so long.  I felt alone…until last week when I stumbled across someone who expressed my feelings exactly and I realized there are others out there who know.

I was reading The Elegance of a Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry when her character Paloma, a twelve year old genius who is running out of hope in humankind and the purpose for living, perfectly captured my feelings on grammar:

Personally I think that grammar is a way to attain beauty. When you speak, or read, or write, you can tell if you’ve said or read or written a fine sentence.  You can recognize a well-turned phrase or an elegant style.  But when you are applying the rules of grammar skillfully, you ascend to another level of language…I get completely carried away just knowing there are words of all different natures, and that you have to know them in order to be able to infer their potential usage and compatibility…it becomes obvious that grammar is an end in itself and not simply a means; it provides access to the structure and beauty of language, it’s not just some trick to help people get by in society. (pgs 158 & 159)

elegance of a hedgehog

I write because I love telling stories, but I also write because I love all the various ways I can tell my story.  Grammar, diction, and syntax can all be brought together in a magical way.  Just writing something because you have to becomes a chore.  But writing because you love and understand language becomes an art…literature.  I don’t want to just write for the sake of writing.  I want to create and explore, to guide emotions with my written words.

And then, the very next day I was reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie when I came upon this great excerpt between the protagonist Junior and his new friend Gordy on books:

“Yes, it’s a small library. It’s a tiny one.  But if you read one of these books a day it would still take you almost ten years to finish.”

“What’s your point?”

“The world, even the smallest parts of it, is filled with things you don’t know.”

Wow.  That was a huge idea.

Any town, even one as small as Reardon, was a place of mystery. And that meant that Wellpinit, that smaller, Indian town, was also a place of mystery.

“Okay, so it’s like each of these books is a mystery.  Every book is a mystery. And if you read all the books ever written, it’s like you’ve read one giant mystery. And no matter how much you learn, you just keep on learning there is much more you need to learn.” (I forgot to get the page numbers for this one)

part time indian

So between the beauty of language when it is formed correctly and all the mystery and newness in each book, I basically wish I could close myself off in a book cave forever, pausing only to create my own and to eat chocolate…and bacon.

If you didn’t see the truth in this before, I hope this stirs a revolution in your mind and soul.  If you did but thought, much like I did, that you were the only one, you are welcome.  Now you know you are not alone.


About caverns of my mind


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