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Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences [Hardcover]

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Item description for Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences by Kitty Burns Florey...

Once wildly popular in grammar schools across the country, sentence diagramming has fallen out of fashion. But are we that much worse for not knowing the word-mapping method?

Now, in this illustrated personal history that any language lover will adore, Kitty Burns Florey explores the rise and fall of sentence diagramming, including its invention by a mustachioed man named Brainerd “Brainy” Kellogg and his wealthy accomplice Alonzo Reed ... the inferior “balloon diagram” predecessor ... and what diagrams of sentences by Hemingway, Welty, Proust, Kerouac and other famous writers reveal about them.

Florey also offers up her own common-sense approach to learning and using good grammar. And she answers some of literature's most pressing questions: Was Mark Twain or James Fenimore Cooper a better grammarian? What are the silliest grammar rules? And what's Gertude Stein got to do with any of it?
"Kitty Burns Florey seems to write from a great wellspring of inner calm that derives from a gleeful appreciation of life's smallest details."
—Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls

"This book is not a primer; it's a prize."
—Robert Hartwell Fiske, author of The Dictionary of Disagreeable English

"A wistful, charming and funny ode to a nearly lost art. Those who remember will cheer. Those who don't will wonder what fun they missed and whether it will be preserved for future generations. All will agree Florey's passion is infectious and entertaining."
—June Casagrande, author of Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies
Kitty Burns Florey, a veteran copyeditor, is the author of nine novels and many short stories and essays. A longtime Brooklyn resident, she now divides her time between central Connecticut and upstate New York with her husband, Ron Savage.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   154
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 8" Height: 7.25"
Weight:   1 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Oct 1, 2006
Publisher   Melville House
ISBN  1933633107  
ISBN13  9781933633107  

Availability  0 units.

More About Kitty Burns Florey

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! KITTY BURNS FLOREY is the author of "Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences." She has also written nine novels most recently, "The Writing Master" and many short stories and essays. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts."

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Classics
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Essays > General
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General
4Books > Subjects > Reference > General
5Books > Subjects > Reference > Words & Language > Grammar

Reviews - What do customers think about Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences?

Boring - for English teachers only  Aug 3, 2008
Boring book. I can"t imagine anyone liking this book other than maybe English teachers. It has little merit as literature, and provides very limited diagramming instruction, so I fail to see its purpose.
Fun, satisfying AND good for you!!  Jul 19, 2008
It never occurred to me that a book on sentence diagramming could be an interesting read, but Florey, a copy editor, is not only a terrific writer and charmingly cranky, but she knows her stuff. It's a coffee table or novelty book, something you might find at Urban Outfitters, and has more in common with the 'origins of everyday things' type books than a grammar book. I learned, for instance, that 'finalize' and 'prioritize' are relatively new words; that 'the lion's share' mean ALL of something, not most; that Indian Summer is not just a warm spell in November, but a warm spell that occurs AFTER a hard frost. Witty and engaging to the end.
The book was horrible  Jun 19, 2008
The book does nothing to help the reader to learn and understand grammar using the diagramming method. If you are interested in learning or brushing up on grammar this book is not for you. There is no connection in the book between grammar and diagramming. It was a waste of money.
Softcore Grammar  Apr 14, 2008
These days, if you want to write literature, you can ignore grammar altogether. But if want to write for a living (i.e. to do the kind of blue collar writing required for law, journalism and scholarship) sentence diagramming is one of the two most important tools you can teach yourself (the other is logical argument diagramming - see Sherry and Malone, Inference and Implication: An Introduction to Logical Analysis).

This book goes a long way to place diagramming within an entertaining narrative context. But when the author concedes that grammar is "unsexy" I don't agree...and I don't quite believe her, either. There is something inherently kinky and Freudian about grammar. It attracts authoritarian personalities -the people David Foster Wallace calls 'militant grammarians.' And the students who thrive in grammar always have a streak of masochism. They take secret joy in submitting to grammar's order, cleanliness, and hairsplitting distinctions. And this is especially true of sentence diagramming. Like the Victorian culture that produced it, diagramming is shot-through with a repressed sadomasochistic eroticism.

Florey contends that this cigar is just a cigar. She goes out of her way to explain that Sister Bernadette was a "benevolent" "tiny nun" who didn't indulge in the stereotypical "knuckle-rapping." But perhaps she doth protest too much. Her disussions of forbidden sleepovers at her "raciest" friend's house are suggestive. When she chooses to spend her "exotic day off" diagramming sentences "under the authoritarian thumb" of a public school teacher, my pulse ticks up a notch. For me, anyway, sentence diagramming will always be hot (think Pygmalion, the Story of O, and Secretary).

Of course, to actually teach diagramming this way is legal only in the Scandinavian countries and some remote parts of New Guinea. For the time being, we in the USA must settle for a more sterile pedagogy. And this is the undoubtedly the best book on this topic currently in print.

But it could be sexier.
A Fun and Easy Read  Apr 4, 2008
Not everyone loves or even knows what sentence diagramming is; but for those of us who do and appreciate what it taught us about language, this is a fun discussion of what unfortunately has become a subject relegated to the educational dustbin of the US. Some other countries still make good use of it. This book makes good fodder for for great cocktail party conversation.

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