Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Review of Better Than Great by Arthur Plotnik

Arthur Plotnik has long been one of my favorite wits in the writing world. His depth-plumbing columns and articles in The Writer magazine were always among those I clipped for rereading, and I was sorry to see him retire from the post a year or two ago. So, naturally, I was tap dancing with excitement when his latest book Better Than Great: A Plenitudinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives was announced. The book offers 230 pages of alternate words, designed to replace the “thin” standards such as “great,” “fabulous,” and “excellent.”

This book easily provided the most fun I’ve ever had in a thesaurus. To make look-up easy and accessible, Plotnik divides the words into fifteen categories: Great, Sublime, Physically Affecting, Mentally or Emotionally Affecting, Beautiful, Joy-Giving, Large, Exceptional, Intense, Delicious, Trendy, Cool, Wicked Cool, Forceful, and Challenging Belief or Expression. He fronts each chapter with a fun intro that explains the chapter to follow and offers insight into his choices and how to utilize the book to full impact.

Admittedly, the book offers a limited scope of word alternatives. To begin with, the words are confined to the above categories of “positive superlatives.” And, within those categories, many of the suggestions would be appropriate only in moments of hyperbole or humor. But, even with its limitations, Better Than Great is a delightful book to put a writer’s shelf. It’s fun to flip through, great for on-the-spot inspiration, and sure to encourage us to reach deeper into our word choices, even if all we do is glance at the spine on our bookshelf every now and then.
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