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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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    Juliet's Nurse

    Lois Leveen 9781476757445

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The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary (P.S.)

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The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary (P.S.) Cover

 

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Average customer rating based on 12 comments:

J M, April 20, 2010 (view all comments by J M)
"The Professor and the Madman" is a very interesting tale, centering on the contributions and relationships of two remarkable men to the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). James Murray is the Professor of the title, and William Minor is Madman. The story of their lives and how they came to be involved with the OED (and each other) is remarkable.

The book is very well-written and wonderfully researched. The depth of detail is fascinating, and the central people in the book are presented in a complete way -- no two-dimensional character sketches here!

The one problem with the book is that it felt like the material was not really sufficient to fill an entire book, so some sections are basically restatements of previous chapters. Thus the story had a bit of a 'stretched out' feel. Also, the post-mortem psychoanalysis of Minor comes off as a bit forced -- some rather obvious possible causes or factors in his illness are never mentioned, and some rather implausible speculations are made, but this isn't a major point.

The central character of the book is really, as the author states, the dictionary itself. The book really has at its heart the love of words and of language, and this is presented clearly in a very accessible way.
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elnsie, February 28, 2010 (view all comments by elnsie)
If this were fiction, I would think it too far-fetched to believe. But, wait, it's a true story, extremely well-told and fascinating!
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(0 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
lindsey b , January 8, 2010 (view all comments by lindsey b )
A very interesting story and very well written and researched. For the more casual reader more interested in the title's story, you could probably skip forward to about page 100 to read about the relationship between the professor and the madman as the OED was being created. This is the kind of story (not a story really, it is factual) you wish more authors would find and write about. It made me feel more compassion for the mentally ill and appreciate such a seemingly common thing as a dictionary.
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
lindsey b , January 8, 2010 (view all comments by lindsey b )
A very interesting story and very well written and researched. For the more casual reader more interested in the title's story, you could probably skip forward to about page 100 to read about the relationship between the professor and the madman as the OED was being created. This is the kind of story (not a story really, it is factual) you wish more authors would find and write about. It made me feel more compassion for the mentally ill and appreciate such a seemingly common thing as a dictionary.
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(1 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
Chicago Alexis, January 2, 2010 (view all comments by Chicago Alexis)
Winchester's elegant prose introduced me to new reading avenues, not just non-fiction, but topics I would pass over without the comfort of his prose. He has a quirky ability to convey what's interesting about words, rocks, maps, the land we walk on, China... His books are a literary vacation, like stopping at a unfamiliar port and having a satisfying encounter with a newfound friend. The book "Professor & the Madman" tells the story of odd lives, lives well-spent in creating the OED (one of the treasures of human spirit). SW writes about human determination, the vision, those humans who see and focus on the thing that matters... I'd like to see SW's bookshelf, most of his books are on mine. (P.S. the OED owes him a retainer).
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780060839789
Author:
Winchester, Simon
Publisher:
Harper Perennial
Author:
by Simon Winchester
Author:
by Simon Winchester
Subject:
English language
Subject:
History
Subject:
Historical - British
Subject:
Historical - U.S.
Subject:
Specific Groups - Special Needs
Subject:
Historical
Subject:
English language -- Etymology.
Subject:
Lexicographers - Great Britain
Subject:
Biography-Historical
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade PB
Series:
P.S.
Publication Date:
20050731
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
288
Dimensions:
8.02x5.32x.68 in. .50 lbs.

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» Reference » Books on Books

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary (P.S.) Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
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Product details 288 pages Harper Perennial - English 9780060839789 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Winchester celebrates a gloomy life brightened by devotion to a quietly noble, nearly anonymous task."
"Review" by , "Winchester, investigating an odd bit of background trivia about the making of one of the world's great books, has the courage of his own curiosity. The elegant curio he has created is as enthralling as a good story can be and as informative as any history aspires to be."
"Review" by , "Remarkably readable....First-rate writing: well-crafted, incisive, abundantly playful."
"Review" by , "Engaging, especially for readers who love words."
"Review" by , "A fascinating tale of madness...a compelling slice of social and intellectual history."
"Review" by , "Winchester, a British journalist who's written 12 other books, combines a reporter's eye for detail with a historian's sense of scale. His writing is droll and eloquent."
"Synopsis" by , Hailed by the New York Times as "a fascinating, spicy, learned tale," this runaway national bestseller takes an extraordinary look into literary genius, madness, and the making of the Oxford English Dictionary.

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