A schoolchild should be taught grammar–for the same reason that a medical student should study anatomy. Having learned about the exciting mysteries of an English sentence, the child can then go forth and speak and write any damn way he pleases.

What a gulf between impression and expression! That’s our ironic fate-to have Shakespearean feelings and (unless by some billion-to-one chance we happen to be Shakespeare) to talk about them like automobile salesmen or teen-agers or college professors. We practice alchemy in reverse-touch gold and it turns into lead; touch the pure lyrics of experience, and they turn into the verbal equivalents of tripe and hogwash.

I love the sound of words, the feel of them, the flow of them. I love the challenge of finding just that perfect combination of words to describe a curl of the lip, a tilt of the chin, a change in the atmosphere. Done well, novel-writing can combine lyricism with practicality in a way that makes one think of grand tapestries, both functional and beautiful. Fifty years from now, I imagine I’ll still be questing after just that right combination of words.

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