The Reader Over Your Shoulder

The Reader Over Your Shoulder

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Overview

The Reader Over Your Shoulder by Robert Graves, Alan Hodge

In late October 1939, Robert Graves wrote to Alan Hodge: "I have begun a new book, about English." Graves and Hodge had recently completed a social history of the between-wars period called The Long Week-End. Now they embarked on this new project, "a handbook for writers of English Prose," to be called The Reader Over Your Shoulder.

The world was in total upheaval. Graves had already fled Majorca three years earlier at the start of the Spanish Civil War. As they labored over their new writing project, Graves and Hodge witnessed the fall of France and the evacuation of Allied forces at Dunkirk. In early September 1940 began the bombing of London by the German Luftwaffe, a concentrated effort to destroy the resolve of the English people. Graves's and Hodge's idea was simple enough: at a time when their whole world was falling apart, the survival of English prose sentences, of writing that was clear, concise, intelligible, had become paramount if hope were going to survive the onslaught. They came up with forty-one principles for writing, the majority devoted to clarity, the remainder to grace of expression. They studied the prose of a wide range of noted authors and leaders, finding much room for improvement. Quoting grammarian and bestselling author Patricia T. O'Conner from her new introduction, "With a new war to be won, the kingdom couldn't afford careless, sloppy English. Good communication was critical."

The book they would write would turn out to be one of the most erudite, and at the same time one of the most spontaneous and inspired, ever to take on the challenge of writing well. O'Conner in her introduction describes The Reader Over Your Shoulder as nothing less than "the best book on writing ever published." The present edition restores, for the first time in three-quarters of a century, the original, 1943, text, which in subsequent printings and editions had been shortened by over 150 pages, including much of the heart of the book.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940159034182
Publisher: RosettaBooks
Publication date: 04/04/2018
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

ROBERT GRAVES (1895–1985) was a preeminent English poet, novelist, critic, translator, and scholar of classical mythology. He served in World War I—an experience recounted in his 1929 autobiography, Good-bye to All That—and later became the first professor of English literature at the University of Cairo. Best remembered today for his acclaimed historical novels about the Roman emperor Claudius, I, Claudius and Claudius the God, his other books include The White Goddess, The Hebrew Myths, and Collected Poems.

ALAN HODGE (1915–1979) was a historian and editor. In addition to The Reader Over Your Shoulder, he collaborated with Graves on Work in Hand, a poetry collection, and The Long Week-End, a social history of Britain during the First and Second World Wars.

PATRICIA T. O’CONNER, a former staff editor at the New York Times Book Review, is the author of five books on language, most recently Origins of the Specious, written with her husband, Stewart Kellerman. Her first book, Woe Is I, has half a million copies in print and will soon appear in a fourth edition. She and Mr. Kellerman blog about the English language at www.grammarphobia.com.

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