Monday, March 23, 2015

No wordplay in 'Wordplay'

Amelia groans. "That is truly an awful wordplay."
Gabrielle Zevin, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Amelia isn't reviewing Glenn Bassett's book Wordplay, but she could be. It is truly awful.

Amelia, in fact, makes reference to what we usually think of when we hear the word wordplay, a pun. They are eating at a restaurant with a Moby Dick theme when A.J. Fikry suggests "a whale of a sundae" for dessert. It is not entirely clear what Bassett, a retired social psychology professor, means by the term, but it isn't puns. At one point he writes, "Advertising is word play." Later he mentions word play in reference to economists.

He begins his book by talking about how important language is simply for being human and for interacting with other humans. "Without words, we remain beasts," he says. Then he goes on to discuss the importance of language in various contexts, such as politics, science and philosophy. By wordplay (or word play, he doesn't seem sure which) he apparently means the use of language in general.

So language is vital to human culture. Bassett writes a difficult book, albeit with mostly simple sentences, to make that rather obvious point.

Not that the author doesn't have some interesting things to say. I liked when he describes baseball as "nothing more than vigorous activity as long as there are no words to describe it." I appreciate the line, "The written word sits patiently until it is discovered and read." I was intrigued by his sentence, "Much of what is accepted as knowledge and wisdom is invented reality." Yes, he does provoke some thought along the way, but readers must dig hard to find such gems. I'm not sure they're worth the effort.

No comments:

Post a Comment