I was fortunate to live in New York city (Brooklyn, to be precise) from 1998 to 2002 and it took me only about 6 months to feel I had become a New Yorker. It was a wonderful time, so full of opportunity, experiences, people from everywhere, food from everywhere else, and I learnt so much of my career there. First producing all sorts of projects at a lively web design agency, often bumping into Tim Robbins and Julia Roberts who had an office upstairs – and then working freelance for a huge local union, many of whose members were immigrant workers, some of whom were killed on 9/11 while working as janitors and window cleaners at the World Trade Centre.
A big part of my being a New Yorker was reading the New Yorker every week. I knew the magazine from before – my aunt in Dublin would buy the odd copy – but owning my own subscription was a very concrete and grown-up achievement. I was being steeped in the grand tradition of James Thurber, Lillian Ross and our own Maeve Brennan to Philip Gourevitch, Adam Gopnik and Malcolm Gladwell. Toting my slim copy through different commutes I absorbed so much about good writing, and how to describe the world. I could read every single cinema listing as a substitute for seeing all those movies, or imagine I was up to speed on the political scene. We would all compare notes with each other on the pattern in which you read it – for me it was movie reviews, talk of the town, listings, books and then everything else. Friends of ours, a couple, had two separate subscriptions, each landing into their mailbox at the same time each week: they even had their own way of filing away the archive copies. I still have my 9/11 black cover edition.
Whenever I need a dose of excellent writing now, I’ll pick it up and read something – on iPad or from the podcast, whenever I can. (Because it’s a digital relationship, I’m always weeks behind – I’d surely be up to speed if I were to splash out on the paper edition.)
And just like listening to a good radio station, you’ll always find something to read and learn something you didn’t know when you got up that morning.
So here’s a new classic piece for your delectation. It just shows you that English is not always so easy for English speakers to write.
One word of advice, don’t read it in public…
“Sentences have been around since the dawn of paragraphs, and indeed since before that, for sentences are essentially the building blobs of a paragraph.”
How to Write a Sentence, by James Thomas (October 24, 2014)
About Wash your Language
I’d love to help you polish your English! I offer web copywriting and editing as well as translation from Norwegian to English and from Italian to English. Read more.