cover image Alphabetter Juice: Or, The Joy of Text

Alphabetter Juice: Or, The Joy of Text

Roy Blount Jr, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-374-10370-5

The humorist and panelist on public radio's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me pours a tall glass of wordplay, witticism, curmudgeonry, and anecdote in this beguiling follow-up to Alphabet Juice. Leafing through the Oxford English Dictionary and other respectable sources, Blount compiles his own facetious lexicon of terms that pique his interest and prod him into a ramble. "Sonicky" words always get high marks for sheer auto-evocativeness— " ‘splotch' explodes from the mouth and makes an unmissable mess of itself"—but any dubious etymology, quaint and off-color usage, or over-reaching lexicographer's dictat is liable to get him going. Then he's off into historical digressions ("not until 1598 did prick appear as an insult"), grammatical rants (you-all is not singular, Yank), miscellaneous peeves (Karl Rove's prose, people who think somebody else wrote Shakespeare's plays), and, always, a shaggy-dog story he wants to tell. Such is the force of the author's free-associational logic that the entry on meta-narrative carries us straight through Jean-François Lyotard's theory of the postmodern to international news reports of a rash of hog- and possum-hurling misdemeanors in Mississippi. Blount's hilarious collection of riffs and raves adds up to a cantankerous ode to the English language in all its shambling grace. (May)