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Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies

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4.32  ·  Rating details ·  441 ratings  ·  85 reviews
“Like any other life-sustaining resource,” says Marilyn McEntyre, “language can be depleted, polluted, contaminated, eroded, and filled with artificial stimulants.” Today more than ever, language needs to be rescued and restored. Drawing on a wide range of sources, both critical and literary, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies is an engaging address to everyone concerne ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 2nd 2009 by Eerdmans
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Carol Bakker
This is a book for word birds. A literature professor — formerly at Westmont, now at UC Berkeley — writes about the things that please and impassion her, about the decline in language she's noticed in her students, and ways we all can cherish words.

I didn't love all of it — at times MCM veers toward and advances her political leanings, which I presume are Christian Left. But the parts I loved, I loved with exuberance and kinship.

Her chapter titles are the best summary:

Love Words
Tell the Truth
D
...more
Chel
Aug 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is an exquisite, delicious book. I want to review it 3 times so I can give it 15 stars. I want to paraphrase a songwriter I knew who said (in response to a Bob Dylan release) that he wanted to bite himself on the arm in regret for not having written it himself. I am in too much awe to try to describe or evaluate the contents, but since I have reviewed other books from a copy editor's perspective, I just want to say that's not what this one is about (though it is relevant). It is more about ...more
ladydusk
Jun 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Own.

I first heard of this book when Ken Myers interviewed Marilyn Chandler McEntyre for Mars Hill Audio Journal (#99). I thought it sounded interesting and added the book to my Amazon wishlist. It continued to haunt me every time I looked at the list, so I finally ordered it and am so glad I did.

I've had a particularly good year of reading this year with few bummers, and in a good year this is one of the three best books I've read.

McEntyre writes beautiful prose, which would be expected from a
...more
Bob
Mar 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Summary: Explores, in a culture of "spin" and poisoned discourse, practices for caring for our use of words, that they may be used well and true.

If you have been following this blog recently, you know how highly I think of this book. Written prior to the latest spate of "alternative facts," agenda journalism, and the publication of "fake news," McEntyre's book explores the abuses of our language, the deadly consequences to which this may lead, and the responsibility of all who preach, teach, and
...more
Melody
During my years teaching at a Christian Liberal Arts college, I once naively asked a roomful of First Year Writers what it means to write as a Christian. Some students argued that Christian writing is defined primarily by the moral nature of the content: "Writing as a Christian means that I take a particular position on [insert hot-button political topic here]," some argued. Others contended that "writing as a Christian means that I attempt to use my writing to convert/evangelize." Other student ...more
Mark
Jun 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
The author of this book begins by staking out the position that caring for words is a moral issue: if language is going to sustain and nurture our common life, it must be tended the way a farmer tends to his soil and crops. Because of the vast proliferation of means of communication, the stewardship of language takes on an even greater value. The author lays out a clear argument for the moral implications to careless use of language, showing that we pay a heavy price for our tolerance of inaccur ...more
Hope
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Caring For Words in Culture of Lies pushed all the right buttons for me since it's about the necessity of preserving beautiful language - not just flowery words, but words that say precisely what they mean.

Just as we should be good stewards of natural resources, McEntyre writes that we should also be guardians of another precious resource: words. Like any other life-sustaining resource, language can be depleted, polluted, contaminated, eroded, and filled with artificial stimulants. Like any othe
...more
Anndrea
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great food for thought.
Jen H
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A Landmark Book on the Subject of Culture Care

Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies is one of THE most important books I have read in a long time. It caught and held my attention from the very start, and it didn't disappoint at any point along the way. Among other things, Marilynne McEntyre identified one of the primary reasons American society is on a downward trajectory. We have ceased to care for words as we ought.

Organized by twelve types of stewardship every Christian needs to relearn and
...more
Malachi  Maglaya
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting read on words, language, and communication. Not focused on etymology, but the use of words, and power of words, and how speech ought to be used--ultimately for good. "Though the circumstances in which we enter into conversation maybe unplanned, the entering is still decision to set other agendas aside and attend. Deliberation distinguishes conversation from idle chatter which requires little and offers less when we enter seriously and intentionally into conversation, we effectively c ...more
Glenn Hopp
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Many reviewers here and at Amazon do not like chapter seven on loving the long sentence, but I appreciated that and all the others. This is my second reading, and I am still finding things to underline (like these comments, p. 68, 71: “Consider, for instance, how good reading involves attitudes and predispositions: consent, permission, forgiveness, relinquishment, empathy, resistance, compromise. What do you have to forgive Hemingway to get the gift that he offers? His machismo? His anti-Semitis ...more
Ethan
Jun 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Excellent little book that challenged me to think deeply about my relationship with words and take more care in my use of them.
Jo Ann
Nov 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, writing
I tried to read this book during travel and it was not a good pick. The last half of the book seemed so much richer sitting at home—the call to slow and silence, poetry and pauses, and community with conversation is a lovely one. An intentional and thoughtful about the intentionality of language and its gift to us.
Lori
Jun 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book about words and our responsibility for them and how they are used. The author makes a case for us to become stewards of words. Each chapter discusses one aspect of that stewardship. She calls them Stewardship Strategies: Love Words, Tell the Truth, Don't Tolerate Lies, Read Well, Stay in Conversation, Share Stories, Love the Long Sentence, Practice Poetry, Attend to Translation, Play, Pray, Cherish Silence. Much of my copy is underlined in red, notations made in the margins, pa ...more
Tamara Murphy
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre believes that we as a culture, generally, and as a faith community, specifically, have not stewarded well the gift of language. After making her case that the Word cares about words, she shares twelve thoughtful strategies to steward language: Love Words, Tell the Truth, Don't Tolerate Lies, Read Well, Stay in Conversation, Share Stories, Love the Long Sentence, Practice Poetry, Attend to Translation, Play, Pray, Cherish Silence.
Hannah Kicklighter
Oct 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this for my school's senior thesis class and I actually throughly enjoyed it. A very interesting take on why and how we should use our words in the modern age.
Deax
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The kind of book you want to start reading again as soon as you finish it. Wonderful.
Amybarker
May 06, 2019 rated it liked it
There was so much good in this book, but enough that I had issues with that it only gets three stars from me.
I found her predictions about the state of words in our culture to be a bit dire, and our call as Christians when it comes to words to be a bit of a stretch.
Also, it is clear that she loves words, but sometimes it feels like she uses fancy or otherwise obscure words just for the sake of doing so! But maybe her point is that that is what we should be doing, for the sake of preserving thes
...more
Emma James
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found this to be a delightful and necessary read. It's about stewarding words and preserving or reinvigorating a broader cultural appreciation for words and language, and most of it originated as a series of lectures at Princeton in 2004. McEntyre points to startling statistics about literacy among Americans who speak English, and laments the abuses of language that have become normalized: "thoughtless hyperbole, unexamined metaphors, slogans and sound bits, grammatical confusion, ungrounded a ...more
Claudia
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Meditations on words and poems and language...McEntyre gives us 12 strategies to cherish our language, to respect its power, and to pay homage to its grandeur. Published in 2008, it's more timely today than ever...with discourse being coarsened, with lies being brazenly tossed about.

"Caring for language is a moral issue" in our society, and we must stand strong against those who manipulate words and people for their own purposes. She tells us that what passes for public discourse is "ad hominem
...more
The Wanderer
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this to be a thought-provoking and inspiring piece of work. The first chapters, in particular, I devoured. The latter chapters held my interest less, but to each their own. Overall, I found this to be a refreshing take on words and language. I'm tired of pedants constantly touting the descriptivist approach to linguistics as a groundbreaking new justification for sloppiness. Yet, McEntyre was hardly advocating for dry, rigidly punctilious use of language either; her recommendations for u ...more
Emily Lund-Hansen
Apr 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
I really wanted to love this book. I agreed with so many of her insights and conclusions--but it's amazing how a cultural commentary from 2009 can already sound so, so dated. I can't help but wonder how McEntyre would approach writing these topics in 2020, when we're more media-, information-, lie-saturated than ever before. I also wonder how this book might change if McEntyre were not quite as reliant on the Western literary canon (Wendell Berry and T. S. Eliot in particular) and broadened her ...more
Micah Winters
Apr 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: wisdoms
McEntyre's deeply felt thesis - that the well-being of our society is inextricably linked to our care for our use of language - resonated with many parts of me, and the spirit of this call runs like a stream through the book's various reflections. Some of these - especially the pieces on love & words, long sentences, and poetry - vibrantly embodied this animating spirit. These trod in deeper wisdoms than others, such as the sections on reading and conversation, which disappointed somewhat with t ...more
Rose
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A former student recommended this book to me some years ago; at that time, I read the first few chapters relevant to a paper I was writing. This year I picked it up and read from beginning to end to meet a challenge to read a book that enhances your vocation. Well, I'm a retired English professor who loves to read! McEntyre writes clearly and knowledgeably. This small volume contains much wisdom regarding our relationship with words that will enrich the reader's reading and/or writing life. (it ...more
Michael  Gajda
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Surprisingly enlightening and courageously written manifesto in honor and in defense of the care and love of words. Everyone who reads, converses, writes, listens, prays, or plays for real, in the search for meaning and truth, should read this book. And then read it again about once a year. And pass it on. It was recommended to me by a friend. It was an unexpected gift. This book opened my eyes to how important our use of words and our use of silence is...especially when the dominant culture is ...more
Dennis Henn
Nov 08, 2019 rated it liked it
My biggest problem with this book was that I thought it was socio-political. Instead it was written by a literature professor as a series of talks at Princeton Theological Seminary. Topics included play, poetry, prayer and silence. My favorite was the technical challenge of translation.
Despite my disappointment that this book's direction diverged from my interest, McEntyre uses words and thoughts well and invests her talks with spirituality.
Barbara
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I don’t think it’s premature to count this as one of the best books I’ll read this year. It would have been in my top books of 2018 but I didn’t want to rush through it just to finish it by the end of December! McEntyre’s thoughtful meditations on various aspects of language, and her suggestions on how to be attentive towards the words we use and the words we encounter, are powerful and timely. The author grounds much of her book in the language of spiritual practice, and I will definitely be we ...more
Ashley Cobb
Oct 29, 2017 rated it liked it
A collection of essays that point to a desirable, yet unattainable goal. We hope to recover the value of words and their import in society. A laudable goal with a difficult price in terms of time and sacrifice to obtain. I like her thesis, I just don't see how it can come to be.
Kendall Vanderslice
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wise book for an age where words are too easy to come by in the form of endless streams of content. McEntyre encourages readers to be discerning in the words they both share with the world and consume.
Martha Templeton
Love

The title caught my attention. The book took me on a journey of interesting thought, celebration and restoration. I read it in chunks, when I felt like I needed it, because these are not the kinds of words you want to skim.
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Marilyn Chandler McEntyre is a fellow of the Gaede Institute for the Liberal Arts at Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California, and she teaches at UC Berkeley. Her other books include Drawn to the Light: Poems on Rembrandt's Religious Paintings, In Quiet Light: Poems on Vermeer's Women, and Patient Poets: Illness from Inside Out.

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