The decay of public language
by Don Watson.
Random House Australia 2003
Hardback about 150mm x 200mm x 20mm 198pp
Will not lay open. Quite thick pages prone to discolouration.
On the jacket inner it say ".... part diatribe, part cool reflection.." and I think that's an error. It's just about wholly diatribe but without any of the redeeming stimulating features that a good diatribe can often have.
It doesn't even have chapters and chapter headings in bold to add to the impact of a diatribe. Chapters, it doesn't even have paragraphs - it has indentations beginning a paragraph but the import of the para as indicated by the first sentence is less than dramatic and often seems entirely pointless, merely indicating when a breathless speaker drew breath rather than when an intellect shifted topic.
Chapters? Paragraphs? It doesn't even have an index and gives the impression there's truly no need for one inasmuch as it is without structure completely.
It gets worse. For some reason the odd numbered pages - that is, the page on the right when it is opened - has a 40mm column marked off and within that column there's little quoted paragraphs and their attribution. Some are clearly supposed examples of bad speech or writing and some clear examples of good speech or writing. Others are not so clear, leading one to the impression that perhaps they're a test of your own judgement and the tome is secretly meant as a textbook.
The whole thing is clearly (because he says so) meant to inveigh against 'the decay of public language' and unfortunately it does this via a 198 page example of decayed language, decayed to where it's like wading through a grey glue...
Horrible little book.
Ought to confess I didn't get further than page 102. Perhaps it gets better later.
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