People become writers, in large part, because they are in love with language. Wordstruck is the story of one such writer's unabashed affair with words, from his Halifax childhood awash with intriguing accents to life as a traveling journalist who "delighted in finding pockets of distinctive English, as a botanist is thrilled to discover a new variety of plant." Each aspect of Robert MacNeil's youthful existence prompted yet another linguistic thrill. Childhood churchgoing "did not provide me with any spiritual awakening ... but it anointed me with language." His mother's passion for the natural world and his father's life as a ship's skipper gave him two more complete vocabularies. And "If you define yourself by the language you acquire as you enter different spheres," MacNeil writes, the absurd language of "cricket was another piece of my self-definition."
MacNeil is best known as a novelist, coauthor of The Story of English, and onetime executive editor of the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. In Wordstruck he imparts a passion for Shakespeare (in particular, Hamlet), Dylan Thomas, and T. S. Eliot, whose ear for the English language, he says, was "the equivalent of perfect pitch--for the harmonic range of our tongue, its rhythms, and all its voices." Wordstruck is a charming memoir from a man "crazy about the sound of words, the look of words, the taste of words, the feeling for words on the tongue and in the mind."