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The readers who devoted a part of their younger years to Strunk & White will recognize in Stylized: A Slightly Obsessive History Of Strunk & White’s The Elements Of Style that Mark Garvey could have shortened his title by two words.  Even so it was fun to read and remember.

I began graduate study in Rhetoric And Public Address at Indiana University in 1959, so long ago that the study has a new name Rhetoric And Public Culture.  Perhaps it was sagacious of my university to tell me it was time to retire.  Back in 1959, Robert G. Gunderson, the professor I most wanted to impress, came bounding in to class waving this little book which he declared would “save your ass again and again.”  Whether I was green, dumb, awed, or all three, I thought the book was his special discovery.  I bought it and in my mind and conversation it was “Gunderson’s book.”

Degrees and career and the little book have come and gone.  The degrees are framed.  The career is a monthly retirement check.  The little book is lost.  Maybe I loaned it to someone.  Maybe I packed it in a box of books that were never unpacked.  At this moment I wish I had the little book in hand.

If you are part of a morning coffee group then you are repeating your stories far too often for others’ comfort.  Read Garvey’s story of Strunk & White’s friends and foes then and now, and you will have something new to talk about to your friends’ delight.  If you have biological heirs in academic training, give each a copy of William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements Of Style, Fourth Edition, forward by Roger Angell.  It comes in plain paperback as befitting a student and a fancy version.  Your heirs will eventually see you as wise.  If not, they are probably a lost cause.  Charles Marlin

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