Speaking and Language

Paul Goodman

I can’t remember how this book arrived on my to-read list, but I went through the trouble of tracking down a used copy, so it must have been a convincing recommendation.

The “Defense of Poetry” subtitle is largely a tease — a reference to other works with similar titles that Goodman was apparently thinking about when he wrote this. Most of the book is about linguistics and speech, and it’s not uninteresting, but I still struggled to get immersed in the ideas presented. Eventually he proceeds to looking at language in literature (not just poetry), and I found a little more to latch on to there, but only in disparate pieces. Strangely Goodman himself explained exactly my experience in reading his book when he speaks of Hemingway’s grammatically passive style and declares, “A disadvantage is that it can rapidly become boring, as Hemingway often is, because it is hard to make the bits add up and increasingly there is resistance to taking the bits in.”