“On a very cold and lonely Friday last November, my father disappeared from the Dictionary. And not only from the big glass building on Broadway where its offices were housed. On that night my father, Douglas Samuel Johnson, Chief Editor of the North American Dictionary of the English Language, slipped from the actual artifact he’d helped compose.
“That was before the Dictionary died, letters expiring on the page. Before the virus. Before our language dissolved like so much melting snow. It was before I nearly lost everything I love.
“Words, I’ve come to learn, are pulleys through time. Portals into other minds. Without words, what remains? Indecipherable customs. Strange rites. Blighted hearts. Without words, we’re history’s orphans. Our lives and thoughts erased.
“Before my father vanished, before the first signs of S011 arrived, I’d reflected very little on our way of life. The changing world I’d come of age in—slowly berfet of books and love letters, photographs and maps, takeout menus, timetables, liner notes, and diaries—was a world I’d come to accept. If I was missing out on things, they were things I didn’t think to miss. How could we miss words? We were drowning in a sea of text. A new one arrived, chiming, every minute.”
–The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon
I loved the beginning of this 2014 debut novel—not for being particularly explosive, but for its promise of interesting language-lover philosophy. I expected great things to follow. But—afuckinglas!—what followed was thoroughly mediocre, and The Word Exchange turned out to be the first book in 2015 that I decided to put down and officially “did not finish.” (I talk about why here.)
Still, the opener is so delicious I wanted to share it in spite of my dislike of the majority of the book (at least until page 68). Someone out there will be able to love this book in a way that I did not, and I want that someone to find it.
What do you think of this opener? Would you give the book a try?