Den akademiske superstjernen Steven Pinker har besøkt Norge igjen, denne gang med sin håndbok i sakprosa-stil. Boka har fått den beskjedne undertittelen The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.
Mange mener med god grunn mye om Pinker, som f.eks. var en hovedinspirator for Harald Eias berømte og beryktede Hjernevask, men skrive kan Pinker, og sakprosa-stilistikken hans er en fryd å lese. Vi velger oss ett av hans egne eksempler på good writing, ett av flere som ifølge forfatteren skal illustrere at slik skriving ikke lar seg presse inn i trange formler. Det dreier seg i ett og samme sitat både om Margalit Fox, en sterk sjangerfornyer av nekrologen og ”Dear Abbey”, en like sterk fornyer av Klara klok-spalten:
«Pauline Phillips, Flinty Adviser to Millions as Dear Abby, Dies at 94
Dear Abby: My wife sleeps in the raw. Then she showers, brushes her teeth and fixes our breakfast—still in the buff. We’re newlyweds and there are just the two of us, so I suppose there’s really nothing wrong with it. What do you think?—Ed
Dear Ed: It’s O. K. with me. But tell her to put on an apron when she’s frying bacon.
Pauline Phillips, a California housewife who nearly 60 years ago, seeking something more meaningful than mah-jongg, transformed herself into the syndicated columnist Dear Abby— and in so doing became a trusted, tarttongued adviser to tens of millions— died on Wednesday in Minneapolis. . . . With her comic and flinty yet fundamentally sympathetic voice, Mrs. Phillips helped wrestle the advice column from its weepy Victorian past into a hard-nosed 20th- Century present. . . . »
Dear Abby: Our son married a girl when he was in the service. They were married in February and she had an 8 1/ 2‑pound baby girl in August. She said the baby was premature. Can an 8 1/ 2‑pound baby be this premature?—Wanting to Know
Dear Wanting: The baby was on time. The wedding was late. Forget it.
Mrs. Phillips began her life as the columnist Abigail Van Buren in 1956. She quickly became known for her astringent, often genteelly risque, replies to queries that included the marital, the medical, and sometimes both at once.» (Margalit Fox, sitert i Steven Pinker 2014: The Sense of Style, Viking.)