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New Yorker copy editor Mary Norris shares love of language in free virtual Bookworm of Edwards event

Mary Norris has been nicknamed the Comma Queen for her liberal use of them.
Special to the Daily

Join bestselling author and New Yorker copy editor Mary Norris for a night of Greek language, travels, and love from her book “Greek to Me.” The virtual event is free and open to all.

Mary Norris has always been drawn to language.

“I was desperate to learn to read when I was little. Reading then became a comfort to me and an escape, and writing also became a kind of solace, a way of keeping myself company,” Norris said.

But it is not just reading that captures her interest.

“I love everything about words: sounds, phonics, spelling, etymology, grammar, foreign languages, and of course literature,” Norris said. “I have always wanted to crack the code of literacy.”

So, when she moved to New York, Norris turned a chance connection into a career that aligned perfectly with her passions.

“I was lucky to meet Jeanne and Peter Fleischmann. Peter was chairman of the board of The New Yorker,” Norris said, “Peter didn’t get me the job, but he told me who to talk to and when I was told there were no openings in editorial, he encouraged me to persist.”

Norris moved up in the ranks from an entry-level job in the editorial library, to the copy desk, to eventually become the query proofreader. The New Yorker is widely considered to have the best copy desk in American journalism, covering everything from fact checking to word choice and more.

It was at the New Yorker that she met someone who encouraged her to pursue a new passion.

“I was drawn to Greece by the landscape originally. I wanted to go to a place with a distant blue horizon,” Norris said. “I’d studied French and Spanish, but I didn’t even think of studying Greek until my boss at The New Yorker, who had been to Greece and studied Greek, showed me that it was possible.”

What surprised Norris the most was how closely related her Greek studies were, with her job at the New Yorker, which revolved entirely around English.

“Many English words are from the Greek and many more are inventions that use Greek roots,” Norris said. “Scientists and inventors turn to Greek, I believe, because it is an umbrella language whose root words are recognizable in English, German, and all the Romance languages. And of course, it has given us terms for rhetoric and rhyme and rhythm. Metaphor is a Greek word. Metamorphasis, too.”

It was this natural linguistic romance, along with Greece’s natural beauty, that made Norris fall in love with Greek, both ancient and modern. And through her book, readers can get a glimpse of Greek magic right from their homes.

“The sea did not disappoint,” Norris said. “Besides, anyplace that is the source of the mythology transmitted by epic poetry and tragedy and comedy—that place has got to be magic.”

If you go …

What: A Virtual Event with author Mary Norris

When: Thursday, June 11, 5 p.m.

Where: Zoom and Facebook Live

Cost: Free

More information: Call 970-926-7323 or visit http://www.bookwormofedwards.com for more information on how to join.


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