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About William Safire
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Safire is the guru of contemporary vocabulary, speech, language, usage and writing. Dedicated and disputatious readers itch to pick up each column and respond to the week's linguistic wisdom with a gotcha letter to the Times. The Right Word in the Right Place at the Right Time marks the publication of Safire's sixteenth book on language. This collection is a classic to be read, re-read, enjoyed and fought over. Fans, critics and fellow linguists wait with bated (from the French abattre "to beat down") breath for each new anthology -- and, like its predecessors, this one is bound to satisfy and delight.
Safire finds fodder for his columns in politics and current events, as well as in science, technology, entertainment and daily life. The self-proclaimed card-carrying language maven and pop grammarian is not above tackling his own linguistic blunders as he detects language trends and tracks words, phrases and clichés to their source. Scholarly, entertaining and thoughtful, Safire's critical observations about language and slanguage are at once provocative and enlightening.
Safire is America's go-to guy when it comes to language, and he has included sharp and passionately opinionated letters from readers across the English-speaking world who have been unable to resist picking up a pen to put the maven himself in his place or to offer alternate interpretations, additional examples, amusing anecdotes or just props.
The Right Word in the Right Place at the Right Time is a fascinating, learned and piquant look at the oddities and foibles that find their way into the English language. Exposing linguistic hooey and rigamarole and filled with Safire's trademark wisdom, this book has a place on the desk or bedside table of all who share his profound love of the English language -- as well as his penchant for asking "What does that mean?" Or, "Wassat?"
This new collection is sure to delight readers, writers and word lovers everywhere and spark the interest of anyone who has ever wondered, "Where did the phrase 'brazen hussy' come from?"
For many people, the first item on the agenda for Sunday morning is to sit down and read Safire's "On Language" column in The New York Times Magazine, then to compose a "Gotcha" letter to the Times. Each of his books on language is a classic, to be read, re-read and fought over. Safire is the beloved, slightly crotchety guru of contemporary vocabulary, speech, language, usage and writing, as close as we are likely to get to a modern Samuel Johnson. Fans, critics and fellow language mavens eagerly await his books on language. This one is no exception.
William Safire has written the weekly New York Times Magazine column "On Language" since 1979. His observations on grammar, usage and etymology have led to the publication of fourteen "word books" and have made him the most widely read writer on the English language today. The subjects for his columns come from his insights into the current political scene, as well as from technology, entertainment and life in general. Known for his delight in catching people (especially politicians) who misuse words, he is not above tackling his own linguistic gaffes. Safire examines and comments on language trends and traces the origins of everyday words, phrases and clichés to their source. Scholarly, entertaining, lively and thoughtful, Safire's pointed commentaries on popular language and culture are at once provocative and enlightening.
Want the 411 on what's phat and what's skeevy? Here's the "straight dope" on everything from "fast-track legislation" to "the Full Monty," with deft and well-directed potshots at those who criticize, twist the usage of or misunderstand the meaning of such classic examples of American idiom as "grow'd like Topsy," "and the horse you rode in on," "drop a dime" (on someone), "go figure" and hundreds more, together with sharp, witty and passionately opinionated letters from both ordinary readers and equally irate or puzzled celebrities who have been unable to resist picking up a pen to put Mr. Safire in his place or to offer detailed criticism, additional examples or amusing anecdotes.
No Uncertain Terms is a boisterous and brilliant look at the oddities and foibles of our language. Not only "a blast and a half," but wise, clever and illuminating, it is a book that Mencken would have loved and that should be on the desk (or at the bedside) of everyone who shares Mr. Safire's profound love of the English language and his penchant for asking, "Where does that come from?"
This new collection is a joy that will spark the interest of language lovers everywhere.
Good news! America’s master wordsmith strikes again with a new collection of erudite, witty, provocative, sometimes barbed, frequently hilarious “On Language” columns. Published in The New York Times and syndicated in more than three hundred other newspapers, these opinions from the “Supreme Court of Current English Usage” cover everything from the bottom line on tycoonese and the accesses* of computerese to portmanteau words like televangelist and Draconomics (the language maven’s own plan for our bloated economy).
Although Safire makes an admirable case for adverbs and adjectives, advocates of strong verbs will be heartened to hear that he also: pleads for the preservation of the subjunctive mood; delivers, hot off the college campus, the latest lingo in which ‘rents means parents and yesterday’s wimps are today’s squids; decries the brevity-is-next-to-godliness literary school; bids farewell to anxiety (it’s been replaced by trendy stress or swangst); noodles over such weighty geopolitical questions as “when an intercept of a fighter is a buzz”; bemoans the loss of roughage to fiber; and rides herd over the language spoken in Marlboro Country.
More good news! Safire again spices his own wit and wisdom with correspondence from Lexicographic irregulars, those zealous readers and letter writers who reply to his columns with praise, scorn, corrections and nitpicks—anything to match wits with Super-maven.
If You Could Look It Up and Take My Word for It occupy prominent spots in your bookcase, then Language Maven Strikes Again belongs there too. If they don’t, then begin with this Safire and work your way back.
*That’s not a typo—that’s a pun.
The time is the end of the eighteenth century. The political figures whose intimate lives are about to be revealed are Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. The journalist out to shape the course of the young nation's history is "that scurrilous scoundrel Callender," the fugitive from Scottish sedition law who pioneered the public exposure of men in power. The women he makes famous are the mysterious Maria Reynolds and the slave Sally Hemings.
The novelist and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist William Safire brings these real characters in our history to life. He recounts the dramatic clash of the Founders and the first journalists -- drawn from actual events of the nation's beginnings -- that has special relevance for our time. Scandalmonger is dramatized history at its best and presidential politics at its most fascinating.
For those who think that Washington sex scandals and lurid journalism are recent developments, this novel will be a revelation, for Safire shows vividly how media intrusiveness into private lives -- and politicians' cool manipulation of the press -- are as old as the Constitution.
The "scandalmonger" of the title is James Thomson Callender, a writer with a poisonous quill pen who is secretly on the payroll of Vice President Jefferson. When Callender publishes documents leaked to him about a secret Congressional investigation into Treasury Secretary Hamilton's financial dealings, Hamilton counters with a confession of an affair with the blackmailing Mrs. Reynolds -- admitting to a sin but not a crime.
Callender's scathing newspaper attacks on Hamilton and on President John Adams as a "hoary-headed incendiary" so incensed the Federalists in power that they enacted the Sedition Act to crush freedom of speech. The scandalmonger was convicted and jailed, but his widely reported martyrdom after an unfair trial angered many voters and helped to sweep the Jeffersonians into power.
The new President pardoned his partisan publicist but refused to reward him -- indeed, cut him off in favor of less divisive supporters. Broke and betrayed, Callender set out to wreak vengeance on his former hero by breaking the story of Jefferson's fathering of children with his slave Sally Hemings -- an account that would be scornfully disbelieved until largely authenticated by DNA evidence almost two centuries later.
Central to the story of Scandalmonger is the enigmatic allure of Maria Reynolds, a haunting adventuress who in real life bedazzled both Hamilton and his arch-enemy, Aaron Burr, and, in this novel, attracted the reviled scandalmonger as well.
Much of the dialogue of Presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe is drawn from their letters. The accounts of libel and sedition trials to suppress the opinions of Callender and his bombastic newspaper antagonist, "Peter Porcupine," are accurate. Hamilton's passionate and ironic defense of freedom of the press is true (although the notes of his speech were fleshed out by Safire, a former White House speechwriter). In a unique "Underbook," the author scrupulously sets forth his scholarly sources, separating fiction from dramatized history -- and in so leveling with the reader, truly re-creates the passionate controversies of an era that presages our times.
In the wake of an important KGB agent's disappearance, an event of international proportions, journalist Irving Fein teams up with a television anchorwoman and stumbles on the story of a lifetime.
“Immensely entertaining . . . engaging and cunningly plotted—with a walth of diverting asides on the self-importance of journalists, the duplicity of officialdom, the venality of big-time literary agents and other of civilized society’s burdens.”—Kirkus Reviews
“The spy novel thought dead at the end of the Cold War, is alive and well, rising to new heights in Bill Safire’s Sleeper Spy.”—Richard Helms, former head of the CIA
These fifty humorous misrules of grammar will open the eyes of writers of all levels to fine style.
How Not to Write is a wickedly witty book about grammar, usage, and style. William Safire, the author of the New York Times Magazine column "On Language," homes in on the "essential misrules of grammar," those mistakes that call attention to the major rules and regulations of writing. He tells you the correct way to write and then tells you when it is all right to break the rules. In this lighthearted guide, he chooses the most common and perplexing concerns of writers new and old. Each mini-chapter starts by stating a misrule like "Don't use Capital letters without good REASON." Safire then follows up with solid and entertaining advice on language, grammar, and life. He covers a vast territory from capitalization, split infinitives (it turns out you can split one if done meaningfully), run-on sentences, and semi-colons to contractions, the double negative, dangling participles, and even onomatopoeia. Originally published under the title Fumblerules.
William Safire was a speechwriter for Richard Nixon from 1968 to 1973. During that time, as a Washington insider, Safire was able to observe the thirty-seventh president in his entirety: as noble and mean-spirited; as good and bad; as a man desirous of greatness. Rarely has there been a White House memoir more intimate or revealing in its exploration of the great events that took place "before the fall" of Watergate. In this anecdotal history, Nixon and his associates come alive, not as caricatures, but as men with high and low purpose: Henry Kissinger, William Rogers, H. R. (Bob) Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, Charles Colson, and Arthur Burns struggle not just for power, but for ideals. As William Safire says in his Prologue: "In this memoir, which is neither a biography of [Nixon] nor an autobiography of me nor a narrative history of our times, there is an attempt to figure out what was good and bad about him, what he was trying to do and how well he succeeded, how he used and affected some of the people around him, and an effort not to lose sight of all that went right in examining what went wrong." The book is divided into ten sections, in which run three main themes: the President, the Partisan, and the Person. As a president, Safire discusses Nixon and the Vietnam War, foreign policy, economics, and race relations. As a partisan, he discusses Nixon's attempt to form an alignment across party lines, successful in many respects before the president tolerated the excesses that eventually corrupted his administration. And as a person, Safire finds that Nixon was a mixture of Woodrow Wilson, Machiavelli, Theodore Roosevelt, and Shakespeare's Cassius--an idealistic conniver evoking the strenuous life while he thinks too much. This paperback edition of a classic primary source for historians includes a new introduction by its author. Studded with direct quotations that put the reader in the room where history was being made, Before the Fall is a realistic, shades-of-gray study of the Nixon years.
Before you scratch that seven-year-itch, you might want to know where it came from. And before someone blurts, "You just don't get it," perhaps you should consult the Pulitzer Prize winning language columnist on the origins of that snappy feminist motto.
When William Safire delineates the difference between misinformation and disinformation or “distances himself” from clichés, people sit up and take notice. Which is not to say that Safire’s readers always take the punning pundit at his word: they don’t, and he’s got the letters to prove it.
Among the entries in Coming to Terms, this all-new collection of Safire’s “On Language” columns, you’ll read the repartee of Lexicographic Irregulars great and small. John Haim of New York sets in concrete what properly to call a cement truck, while Charlton Heston challenges an interpretation of Hamlet’s “to take arms against a sea of troubles” and Gene Shalit passes along his favorite Yogi Berra-ism.
Bringing them all together are dozens of Safire’s most illuminating and witty columns, from “Right Stuffing” to “Getting Whom.” When William Safire comes to terms, there’s never a dull moment.