Wednesday, 4 October 2006

The Right Attitude to Rain

Just finished the book of this title by Alexander McCall Smith, and I think it is his best yet. His writing style is deceptively simple and yet he manages to weave into a story full of human feeling and incident reflections on poetry, art, Scottish history, language and above all, philosophy: he was, after all, until he gave it up to write full-time, a professor of medical ethics, and the main protagonist of the "Isabel Dalhousie" series edits a journal of philosophy. Here's a bit I especially enjoyed:

"She had to contend with the preparation of the next issue of the journal and with a number of objections raised to her editing by one of her contributors. He was a professor of moral philosophy from Germany, who prided himself on his ability to write in English. This pride was well-placed in some respects, but not in others. Isabel had tried to tell him that inversions in English had to be handled carefully - otherwise infelicities of style would we encounter. The verb at the end of the sentence could be put, but only rarely. Very seriously must the issue of moral imagination be taken, he had written, and when Isabel had interfered with this sentence in the proofs he had responded testily: Wrong it might be, he had written, but wrong here it is not. That very sentence was technically correct, but was not easy modern English, as she had pointed out in a subsequent note, to which he had replied: Must philosophy be easy? For whom are we writing? For the philosopher or the street person? She smiled at the additional confusion; the man in the street was not a street person, by definition."


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