I like books that are collections of short stories or essays, so Katie Haegele’s Slip of the Tongue was definitely up my alley. Haegele has always had an interest in linguistics. She majored in it in college but doesn’t write in an academic way. But it is that exploration of verbal communication that ties these essays and articles together. She writes, “Thinking about language is the way I make sense of my humanity.”
While some might think that a book exploring language may not be real engrossing, it’s actually quite interesting how Haegele finds ways to connect everyday experiences back into language and does so in a way that is easily communicated to others.
The book is divided into two sections. The first (and longer part) is essays that relate back to language in one sense or another. The second, smaller section is articles Haegele wrote for various publications. These also tie in with language in some way.
Haegele shares essays where she writes of the differences in language she picked up when she lived in Ireland for a year, the history of her house, an exploration of the word “slut,” a visit to the zoo, and a poetry zine she put together. The range of topics is enough to keep the reader engaged, even as Haegele finds ways to thread the theme of language through them all.
The journalistic articles are a bit different, as they aren’t all written from such a personal point of view. There’s a great article on the history of graffiti in Philadelphia and another about Haegele’s attempt to drop her Philly accent. They’re diverse, but engaging.
In many of the essays and articles the author finds ways to incorporate experiences from her own life in such a way that by the end of the book the reader has come to a greater understanding of Haegele’s life. In that sense, Slip of the Tongue also serves as something of a memoir.
I have a small complaint about Slip of the Tongue: some of the pieces seemed so short as to be unnecessary. Things that are less than a page or two don’t hit nearly as hard as the more in-depth, personal pieces. They serve as filler rather than anything else.
Otherwise, this is a fun, creative book that can be read quickly or digested slowly. And, most importantly, if you’re paying attention, it will help you see the way we communicate in a different light. The ability to open minds and share ideas is amongst the most important things a book can do. Adding a personal element as Haegele does makes the message all that much more palatable. –Kurt Morris (Microcosm, 2752 N. Williams Ave., Portland, OR 97227)