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Friday, February 14, 2014

Lexicon by Max Barry


Lexicon by Max Barry was a title that leaped out at me and I was persuaded to check it out. Lexicon is an important word to me, as a former English teacher. Words are important and one of their uses I always taught my students were they were used to persuade someone to do something for you. Persuade them for a job via a letter and resume. To persuade someone about a point you want to make when they wrote an essay. This story is no different, although it is a bit more weird and complex than innocent uses we normally use, or are they as innocent as we think or believe. This novel reveals a rather interesting take on the art of persuasion. On the other hand if you believe words can’t kill, harm, or control than read this book and you will be persuaded to the contrary. Just give me the word. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God. And look what happened with the Word.
There is a school that teaches the art of persuasion that Emily goes to. They teach about words, words of persuasion, words of fear, and words of power. When a student graduates, their old name is lost and they are given a new name, a dead poet’s name like Virginia Wolff, Emily Dickenson, TS Eliot, Alexander Pushkin, Sylvia Plath, William Butler Yeats, Robert Frost, and Charlotte Bronte. It seems appropriate since poets are economists of words and words is the name of the game for these people. What they do with these words though is different from what their namesakes did with words. Consider how we use words to command an attack dog.
This is a very interesting study of words and their use. There is an good discussion of how we watch the news. I used to watch both Fox and MSNBC just to see if I could cull out the truth. Now I just watch The Daily Show and Colbert, because I’m going for the humor. I came to realize, watching the news was a waste of time. But the study of words in how the news is delivered is an art form as delivery and reception. Words are not a waste of time, that is how we persuade. Then there is the bareword, love conquers all.
It is a variant story on the Tower of Babel. If I were still teaching, I’d love to use this book in class. It has everything an English teacher loves in a book: language, a story about words and how they are used, and umpteen allusions to poets.

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