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So about five years ago I received an unsolicited book in the mail called Classical English Rhetoric by Ward Farnsworth. I mentioned it here briefly. I began reading it but as good as it is, it is not the sort of book one sits down to read cover to cover. It is more of a dip in and out of sort of book as well as a reference book. So I never finished reading it.

The other day in the mail comes a book package with another copy of Classical English Rhetoric in it, this time in paperback along with a new book by Ward Farnsworth called Classical English Metaphor. These came, both times, directly from the author.

Also in the package was a cheeky letter from Mr. Farnsworth expressing his disappointment when he saw that about a year after he sent me his book I had posted about A Tale of Two Cities and mentioned the book’s use of repetition wondering what it was called. He takes me to task in this letter because in his book he names this technique and uses Dickens to do it. He goes on to say that he has enclosed the paperback copy in case the hardcover he originally sent me was no longer handy because “Every household should have one in case of rhetorical emergency.” This made me laugh out loud.

I am pretty sure the original copy is still floating around somewhere but if Mr. Farnsworth were to ever see the state of my book organization he would be aghast that I could call myself a librarian. So, I appreciate both the thoughtfulness and the cheekiness. It really made my day! I even had to call Bookman and read him the letter so I could have someone else laugh with me.

Mr. Farnsworth predicts that if I spend ten minutes with his new book, Classical English Metaphor, that I will immediately see it is my kind of book and be compelled to tell the world about it. And he is right. So here I am telling the world, or at least all of you, about it.

In his preface, Mr. Farnsworth extolls the value of metaphor, how it can “make unfamiliar things familiar, invisible things visible, and complicated things easier to understand.” It can also create humor, feeling, surprise and let us not forget, it can be used to make a great insult. Plus, metaphors can be just plain delightful in and of themselves.

The book is structured into sections with titles like “The Use of Animals to Describe Humans,” and “Occupations and Institutions.” At the beginning of each section is a brief comment on the type of metaphor in question before we launch into examples. And the examples are abundant and delightful. An example at random:

I’m capable of a great jerk, an effort, and then a relaxation — but steady every-day goodness is beyond me. I must be a moral kangaroo!

Compliments of Elizabeth Gaskell in Wives and Daughters.

The book ends with a chapter on the construction of similes and another on the construction of metaphors with plenty of additional illustrations of style and technique.

Classical English Metaphor is a book to be dipped into while waiting for the bus or in the doctor’s office or when looking for inspiration or a few moments of fun. Both this book and Classical English Rhetoric will be given a place on my reference shelf and be kept forever handy in case of rhetorical or metaphorical emergency. That way in a few years when Mr. Farnsworth writes his next book, he will not be able to give me a hard time about anything.

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