I decided to move to New York two weeks before I did. Admittedly, I'd just gone through a messy breakup and was ready to move out of post-college limbo and embark on my real life. This life, I was certain, was to take place in New York City as an editor at a publishing company (how cliche). Sure, I didn't know anyone in New York or have a job or apartment lined up... but I knew that was where I was supposed to be.
In Texas, I had two over-filled bookshelves. I also only owned two suitcases in which I could try to fit everything I wanted to take with me. Since I had no idea where I'd end up, I had no choice but to leave my books behind. It was torture. There were so many tomes that held so many memories: my grandfather's old, battered copy of "Franny and Zooey" (the latter after whom I was named) and my copy of "Anna Karenina" with a sweet personalized note from a former English teacher, among countless others.
I decided to bring just one book, to act as a symbol of my monumental move (as a former Literature major, everything is symbolic to me). The one I chose was the newer edition of Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style," with beautiful illustrations by Maira Kalman.
Sure, I'm a little old school. I like "The Elements of Style" for its purism. Do I wince a little when I see "10 items or less" at the grocery store? I must admit that I do. I am, as David Foster Wallace so brilliantly described in his essay on grammar, a prescriptivist (although perhaps a mild prescriptivist as I do find it perfectly acceptable to say "y'all").
This book is all about rules. As a prescriptivist, I like rules. They're comforting.
When I finally got a job, not in book publishing, but working on the Books page at The Huffington Post (close enough, and actually much better, in my opinion), I ended up using "The Elements of Style" more than one might think.
People take a surprising interest in grammar; they love to argue about it. I have done several round ups of common grammar mistakes (from "The Elements of Style") that really got people going. I even got criticized on our Facebook page for my use of "y'all" (though I assure you that I will not stop using it).
Though "The Elements of Style" has received criticism over the years (as I'm sure every grammar book has), it has nonetheless stood the test of time. Since it was published in 1959, it has sold over 10 million copies.
Last week, two Columbia University grad students decided to pay homage to Strunk and White with a ridiculous, yet hilarious rap song. With lines like "Split infinitive/ Never definitive/ Sounds unintelligent/ Dumb and inelegant," how can you help but like it? At the very least, it'll help make all those grammar rules much easier to remember.