On the Bookshelf
A Matter of Style
By Matthew Clark
Oxford University Press, 2002, 170 pp.,
ISBN 0-19-541762-3, Price $15.95
Reviewed by Andi Argast
A Matter of Style is a guide to the intricate nuances of
prose. Language is a basic tool we all use and Matthew Clark demonstrates
that writing can be lifted from its basic communicative function
to a nearly lyrical art.
Using example passages from a wide range of prose, Clark dissects
and analyzes each piece. He begins by discussing grammar, moves
to the components of a sentence, then looks at the structure of
paragraphs, and finishes with a discussion of the novel form.
Clark's analysis is through and intelligent. He illustrates that
style in writing can take many different forms, from the rhythm
of words, to figures of speech. He often breaks down one literary
example in several different ways, demonstrating the flexibility
of written language. Clark also shows the reader many passages where
the stylistic device has worked to produce fluid and well written
prose. The variety of his examples is always interesting, as they
range from Jane Austin, to Margaret Mead, to Cicero.
From the outset, Clark warns that A Matter of Style is written
with the assumption that the reader has a good understanding of
basic grammar -- and this is a definite requirement if the book
is to be thoroughly enjoyed.
A Matter of Style is a good guide for anyone wishing to
broaden their writing abilities, or for anyone who loves the delicate
workings of written language.
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