Never having written a Dear Santa letter in my youth, this week I write to him for the first time in my weekly column:
I am going to do something that I have never heretofore done. I am going to write a letter to Santa. I do not remember ever writing to Santa to ask for something for Christmas, so it is nigh high time. I may have scribbled a note to him left with milk and cookies, but a true Dear Santa letter has never been written, so here goes:
Hope all is well at the North Pole and that the elves are being diligent. Tell your wife hello and wish her a Merry Christmas for me. I suspect you are getting ready for the big day even though it is still a month away. I hear you were in my small town last week in the parade, and from all accounts you did yourself proud.
Okay, now that I have dispensed with the preliminaries, let me get down to the nitty gritty of this letter. As you probably know by now, people write to you asking for gifts but in the process couch their requests in niceties as we have been taught that it is impolite to be greedy. Far be it from me to be thought greedy, but at this time of year I have to admit, I like to receive as well as give. I am being honest here and hope you will at least get me some credit for that.
I would like to ask for peace on earth and that everyone be fed and clothed and warm this winter but I know that it is not your responsibility, so I will leave that to a higher source to guide the rest of us to continue the quest that though seems impossible, is not one we should give up on.
Okay, so here is what I want for Christmas. It is a book called “The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.” Quite a mouthful isn’t it? I can understand why you might think that it is a rather pretentious request, and a less than modest one, in that the title includes the words “The Thinking Person”, but I think I should be congratulated for wanting to better myself.
The book is written by Steven Pinker, who until he wrote the book was a high ranking academic (and still is, the fact that he wrote the book did not change his status.) He was born in Montreal, is around my age, and seems to be approaching the whole thing of grammar in a rather tongue-in-cheek way from the review I read in the Sunday Toronto Star. Tongue-in-cheek, yet still serious.
Pinker, unlike legions of us lesser folk, believes that “grammar is a fascinating subject in its own right”. Now I must admit that I like grammar too, though I break many of its tenets on a regular basis. In order to make the subject more appealing to a broader base he says that one should think of “grammar as the original sharing app” which is our “solution (for) getting complicated thoughts from one head into another.”
He rails against what he calls academic “highfalutin’ gobbledygook” wherein academics use “ponderousness as proof of gravitas” when in reality “their writing stinks”. I know firsthand whereof he speaks having turned out numerous essays in my younger days that make me scratch my head when I reread them today. (It humbles me that I do not understand the writings of my youth, but then I comfort myself with the fact that one has to put them in the context of being an answer to a dubious assignment by a crafty professor.)
Santa, I know it makes me sound like a bit of a book nerd to want this book for Christmas when I could ask for shiny baubles, warm sweaters, and perfume (all of which are welcome btw) but I have always found that the voice behind the books I read are comforting, compelling, and sometimes I even learn something (though retaining it is another story).
I am convinced that I want this book merely by reading a deft review by Jim Coyle. In his article he dedicated the last paragraph to a quote by Pinker who stated rather elegantly that “To a literate reader, a crisp sentence, an arresting metaphor, a witty aside, an elegant turn of phrase are among life’s greatest pleasures.”
Santa, just so you do not feel any undue pressure, I am letting my husband read this letter too—so between the two of you maybe you can come up with a plan to have this book, shiny and new, wrapped up and under my Christmas tree, in oh say, a month’s time?
With love and admiration, LouAnn
What would you ask Santa for?