cover image The Miracle of Language

The Miracle of Language

Richard Lederer. Pocket Books, $20 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-70939-6

In this collection of entertaining and enlightening essays, Lederer ( Anguished English ) celebrates language as ``incomparably the finest of our achievements'' and passes along some eloquent testimony on the emancipating power of language in the lives of Helen Keller, Richard Wright, Malcolm X, Anne Frank. Also appraised are the contributions of other writers who, ``sculpting significance from the air, have changed the world by changing the word.'' The first of these is William Shakespeare, whom Lederer identifies as the most prolific word-maker who ever lived (the Bard, it turns out, invented at least 10% of his vocabulary). Next is Samuel Johnson who, with his breakthrough dictionary, captured the majesty of English and gave it a dignity long overdue. Others include Ambrose Bierce, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson, T. S. Eliot, George Orwell. A delightful and edifying collection. BOMC and QPB alternates. (Nov.)