1) Five years ago, I wrote enthusiastically about Ward Farnsworth’s Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric (here and here), and I have continued to consult it with pleasure (and recommend it) ever since. Now Farnsworth has been kind enough to send me a copy of his new book, Farnsworth’s Classical English Metaphor, and it’s at least as good, from the marvelous cover (which uses this Grandville image) to the selection of quotations, in which one can lose oneself for hours (Farnsworth correctly says “the book is better approached arbitrarily than by going straight through”). It is intended to be “a study of where figurative comparisons come from and what effects they have” and “to provide a better and different collection of comparisons than has yet been available”; there is little commentary on individual quotes (“Explanations of metaphors, I have come to feel, are perilously similar to explanations of jokes”), but each section, from “The Use of Animals to Describe Humans” to “Personification,” has a brief introduction putting them in context. I heartily recommend it to anyone to whom this brief encomium sounds enticing.
2) The good people at Oxford UP sent me a review copy of the brand-new Fourth Edition of Garner’s Modern American Usage (oddly, although today is supposedly the publication date, there is as yet no Amazon page). Garner is far and away the most traditionalist of the commonly used style guides, and it will not be a surprise to anyone that I do not approve of his general approach, nor do I think much of his new essay “Making Peace in the Language Wars,” which (like all such attempts to end wars by fiat from one of the warring sides) is ludicrously disingenuous and deserves to have its own cannonball “astounding instances of muddled thought” turned back upon the sender. (It reminds me of nothing so much as DFW’s famous Harper’s essay on usage — which was presented, in fact, as a review of an earlier edition of Garner — which I demolished here, and which Garner quotes with pleasure.) To give an idea of Garner’s level of hubris, he dares to “correct” P. G. Wodehouse on word usage (s.v. “effete”: “All the same, these effete [read decadent] aristocrats of the old country”). All that said, it is a very popular style guide for perfectly good reasons — if magisterial guidance, with an occasional twinkle in the eye and lots of citations, is what you want, Garner is your man, and for your fifty bucks you get almost five pounds (two and a quarter kilos) of well-produced book.