WHO: N.M. Gwynne
WHAT: GWYNNE’S GRAMMAR
WHEN: Published by Knopf September 5, 2014
WHERE: The author lives in County Wexford, Ireland.
WHY: A runaway best seller in the UK.
The greatest danger to our way of life is the decline of grammar. Thus preaches the inimitable Mr. N.M. Gwynne as he shows us the way out of this sorry state.
“Grammar is the science of using words rightly, leading to thinking rightly, leading to deciding rightly, without which–as both common sense and experience show–happiness is impossible,” writes Mr. Gwynne in his small but perfectly formed new book of grammar with an attitude. “So, therefore, happiness depends at least partly on good grammar.”
Mr. Gwynne believes passionately that we must regain our knowledge of the workings of our language before it is too late. Schools don’t teach it, and as the Internet drives the written word to new lows of informality, we approach a tipping point of expressive dysfunction. Into the breach steps this doughty grammarian. Rejecting popular notions that language is simply a matter of the way people use it, he meticulously spells out what tradition and common sense have, over centuries, dictated to be the right and the wrong.
In the 1980s, on retirement from a successful career as a businessman in London and Australia, N. M. Gwynne took up teaching. He discovered a real demand for his traditional methods and began teaching a diverse range of subjects: foreign languages, mathematics, history, classical philosophy, natural medicine, the elements of music, and even business. With an international word-of-mouth reputation, Mr. Gwynne has been flown around the world to teach his pupils privately, and his reach online has extended to India, Europe and across the United States.
His teaching method is defiantly old school: no one can follow a rule he hasn’t committed to memory. But not all rules are equal. For a country whose only broadly subscribed guide to writing is Strunk and White, Mr. Gwynne performs a radical procedure. He presents its original seed: Strunk’s 1918 essay, which E. B. White expanded. But neither form was ever meant as a guide to grammar, and so Mr. Gwynne presents only the kernel of Strunk’s useful advice as a companion: a guide to putting words together nicely set within Gwynne’s wisdom about putting them together correctly. The result is the last word on the subject anyone should need.
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