Monthly Archives: January 2014

Mark Rosenfelder, The Language Construction Kit

Rosenfelder-Language Construction Kit (2013-09-01 020)Title: The Language Construction Kit

Author: Mark Rosenfelder

Publication Information: Chicago: Yonagu Books, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-9844700-0-6 (pbk.); 978-0-9844700-1-3 (cloth)

Library of Congress Classification: P120.I53

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Imaginary languages
Languages, Artificial
Language and languages
Language, Universal

This book is related to another one written by Rosenfelder that I also reviewed, The Planet Construction Kit.

I find languages fascinating. That said, I can only speak English; I have never been very good with foreign languages. However, if one is writing books or stories about different worlds or other places, it’s good to be able to create some type of language for the inhabitants, even if it’s only a naming language (a language that only consists of names on a map or some phrases). In Rosenfelder’s case, he’s created Verdurian and it’s many dialects. His site is loaded with translations of different languages.

The book takes you through all the steps (and more) in creating a language. From my own experience, I would create alphabets for the characters I created while a child. It went from a letter-by-letter conversion to differing sounds to different words to different sentences–that still read like English, since I was never very good at diagraming sentences. I know my parts of speech (thanks to ABC’s Schoolhouse Rock), but that was about it. Predicate adjectives, predicate nominatives … it all just runs together for me. I used to forget everything. (This was also a problem with math.)

This book probably has more in it than most of us would ever want to know. Still, it is fascinating. In his introduction, Rosenfelder states that the book is not meant to be read straight through; someone interested in creating a language can look around and see what parts of the book are needed at that point. (This would be me, jumping from page to page.) The contents of the book: A naming language; The overall process; Sounds; Word building; Grammar; Semantics; Pragmatics; Language families; Writing systems; Kebreni; Word lists; More to read (the bibliography).

Anyone interested in creating languages would find this book very interesting and very helpful, if only to give you ideas on how one goes about creating a language or languages.

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Look What’s New in the Warner Library!

Warner Library serves Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. There’s a big browsing section of what new books the library bought.

Rakoff-Love Dishonor Marry Die Cherish Perish (2014-01-12 003)Title: Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish: a Novel

Author: David Rakoff [illustrations by Seth]

Publication Information: New York: Doubleday, c2013 (1st ed.)

ISBN: 978-0-385-53521-2

Library of Congress Classification: PS3618.A436

Dewey Decimal Classification: 813.6

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Men—United States—Social conditions—20th century—Fiction
Women—Social conditions—20th century—Fiction
Gay men—Social conditions—20th century—Fiction
Man-woman relationships—United States—Fiction
Sexually abused children—United States—Fiction

This is a very cleverly-written series of short stories. Two of the chapters were originally broadcast on NPR’s This American Life. And that’s what these stories are about: living in America, an  America from the past, the late 1930s through the 1960s. The stories are written in verse, and I’ve always found it interesting to see how authors rhyme the sentences. I remember in eighth grade, Sister Camilla Mary making the class write one poem, composition and book report every month. The poems were the hardest (it took me a while to fully understand what is a composition), and these poems only  had to be eight lines.

Each chapter stands on its own, but there are links between each story that are revealed as you read. For example, the twelve-year-old who is raped by her step-father in the first story, flees and is kept warm in a frigid railway car by a man in a warm coat. In the next chapter we find out that he’s the father of the main character in the next story. He remembers seeing her freezing and, feeling sorry for her, wrapped her in his arms–he was in a big winter coat–and sang Yiddish songs to her before she fell asleep.

We have Denise, the self-center, pretentious young woman who detests her boyfriend Nathan, who never lets anything bother him. So while they are on vacation with Nathan’s friend Josh, Denise decides to seduce Josh. In a later story, Nathan is the main character in the story and he is has been asked to deliver a toast at Denise and Josh’s wedding. Then there’s Clifford, who discovers he’s gay when he’s in an art class and faints when he sees his first naked man; his cousin, who remembers that Clifford once drew her partially nude and it was the perfect day in her life; and we have Josh, who is now much older and alone, reflecting back on his past–and what he did to Nathan.

There’s sadness here, but also a lot of truth. It’s well-written and very entertaining. The pictures by Seth are powerful, and fit the characters that they portray. Sadly, there will be no further books from Rakoff, who died shortly after finishing the book.

Look What’s New in the Warner Library!

Warner Library serves Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. There’s a big browsing section of new books added to the library collection.

Harris-After Dead (2014-01-12 002)Title: After Dead

Author: Charlaine Harris

Publication Information: New York: Ace Books/Penguin, 2013 (1st ed.)

ISBN: 978-0-425-26951-0

Library of Congress Classification: PS3558.A6427

Dewey Decimal Classification: 813.54

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Stackhouse, Sookie (Fictitious character)—Fiction
Vampires—Fiction
Werewolves—Fiction
Magic—Fiction
Harris, Charlaine—Characters

I read Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books long before they were popular. I even recommended them to a friend of mine, who went on to read every one of them. Me? I read a couple of them. I have collected most of the series–like many other books that I have and are unread. At this point I will have to start over from the beginning. Reading this book did not spoil any of the novels, and I do intend to get back to reading them at some point.

This book serves as a “bookend” to the series; it is not a novel, nor is it a series of short stories. What you have is an alphabetical listing of all the characters that Harris created that appeared at one time or another in her Sookie novels. She tells fans what happened to everyone after the last novel, Dead Ever After, ended. Some of them, such as Sookie and Sam, have happy endings. Others, like Mustapha Khan, are sad. But that’s life. Some of us come to tragic ends, or waste our lives, while others have happy lives, loves, etc. Entries vary from a line to a few pages, depending on the character and how long he/she appeared or how popular he/she is.

Will Harris write other novels in the Sookie universe without making Sookie the main character ? Perhaps. Some entires, like the one for Dahlia Lynley-Chivers reads that she “… still lives in Rhodes [Iowa] and continues to have her own adventures.” Per Wikipedia, Dahlia already appears in a series of short stories.

Whether or not Harris ever returns to writing novels set in the Sookie universe remains to be seen. An interesting book.