Saturday, April 18, 2015

Us in a nutshell?

It can be an unsettling experience to encounter a description of someone else which might in fact have just as readily been applied to oneself.

We have long been fans of books by Donna Leon. Partly, the attraction is the locale - vivid renderings of the townscape of Venice; partly it is the sharp-eyed skewering of characters, especially the foibles of the Italian national persona; and partly it is the ineffable charm of the central character (Guido Brunetti) and his family.

So I was taken aback when starting one of her recent books (The Golden Egg) to be confronted by the following:

"Families, much in the manner of churches, have rituals and rules which puzzle non-members. They also place high value on things which members of other groups do not prize to the same degree. If the Brunettis had a religion, aside from a formal adherence to some of the outward, decorative manifestations of Christianity, it was language. Puns and jokes, crossword puzzles and teasers were to them what communion and confirmation were to Catholics. Bad grammar was a venial sin; deliberate corruption of meaning was mortal. The children had taken pride in reaching the stages of awareness where they, too, could partake in the progressively more serious sacraments; raised in this faith, they did not think to question its values."

Now I'm not claiming this is about The Mulligans, but it is an eerily accurate description of our attitudes towards language, expression, precision and fun!

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