Thursday, April 28, 2011

John Pollack

John Pollack, who won the 1995 O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships, was a Presidential Speechwriter for Bill Clinton. Earlier, he worked as a foreign correspondent in Spain, as a field assistant in Antarctica, and as a strolling violinist on Mackinac Island. His books include The World On a String: How to Become a Freelance Foreign Correspondent and Cork Boat.

Pollack's new book is The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics.

Earlier this month I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I recently read The Tree, by John Fowles, which explored the starkly different relationships that the author and his father enjoyed with the trees in their lives. The father, a struggling tobacconist in suburban London, cultivated domestic fruit trees whose productivity he tracked carefully from year to year. The younger Fowles preferred wild trees in natural settings, as their unkempt nature inspired his creativity. I enjoyed the book for its meandering and for its quiet demand that I open my dictionary from time to time.

Fowles closes the memoir with a hike he took to an isolated English forest called Wistman’s Wood, a place he’d not visited for 30 years. It was a windswept grove of stunted English Oaks – ancient and twisted, their branches cloaked in robes of moss, ferns and lichens.

“They seem, even though the day is windless, to be writhing, convulsed, each its own Laoco├Ân, caught and frozen in some fanatically private struggle for existence,” Fowles wrote. “From somewhere outside, far above, on top of Togford Tor, I hear human voices. Then silence again. The wood waits, as if its most precious sap were stillness. I ask why I, of a species so incapable of stillness, am here.”

Perhaps it’s simply to tell us what he sees, as no tree will stand forever.
Visit the official The Pun Also Rises website.

--Marshal Zeringue