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Opening Arguments

Lost art

I have a book recommendation for all you true "make no apologies for it" geeks and nerds out there. It's "Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog," which has been out a few years but which I just discovered. It's about -- are you ready? are you ready? -- diagramming sentences, which those of you of, um, a certain age might remember actually doing in school. In addition to learning the history of diagramming and reading about author Kitty Burns Florey's Catholic school upbringing, you will actually learn how to diagram or get a refresher course if you already know how (or think you remember how). As one reviewer notes, this is a "wistful, charming and funny ode to a nearly lost art."

From the book:

I remember loving the look of the sentences, short or long, once they were tidied into diagrams—the curious geometric shapes they made, their maplike tentacles, the way the words settled primly along their horizontals like houses on a road, the way some roads were culs de sac and some were long meandering interstates with many exit ramps and scenic lookouts. And the perfection of it all, the ease with which—once they were laid open, all their secrets exposed—those sentences could be comprehended.