Serious Book Recommendation

I want to pull your coat to an excellent book that will be officially published in August, but which you can order right now. Take yourself to the website for Talking Hands: What Sign Language Reveals About the Mind by Margalit Fox. Now, as many of you know, Ms. Fox is a very talented journalist who writes obituaries for the New York Times; she also is, coincidentally, my wife. However, I am telling you sincerely and utterly without bias, that Talking Hands is an elegantly structured, stunningly clear book that elucidates the complexities of human language, a topic that should be of interest to anyone who is concerned with film.

Huh? You're asking why an interest in film should be accompanied by an interest in language. Perhaps I'm showing my age by noting that when I was in film school the structuralists and their offspring held sway, and a grounding in linguistics would have come in handy. One thing that Ms. Fox's book proved to me -- albeit quite indirectly -- is that the idea the film operates like a language "system" is utter nonsense. I won't go into a long song-and-dance right now, but suffice to say that when one writes about "film grammar" it can only be a metaphor, not a scientific reality.

Of course, Talking Hands is unconcerned with film (although videotape plays an integral part in the scientific research about which Margo writes). That's just my reaction, like the dentist who used to review films on David Letterman's show by remarking on the actors' orthodontia. But the book is fascinating in and of itself, and I recommend it heartily.

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