SENSE OF STYLE by Steven Pinker
Chapter 1. Good Writing: Those skills may have not come from style books, but they must have come from somewhere. That somewhere is the writing of other writers. Good writers are avid readers. They have absorbed a vast inventory of words, idioms, constructions, tropes, and rhetorical tricks, and with them a sensitivity to how they mesh and how they clash.
(Rolls off my tongue) vertiginous enigma of existence and death
The authors also share an attitude: They do not hide the passion and relish that drive them to tell us about their subjects. They write as if they have something important to say. But no, that doesn’t capture it. They write as if they have something important to show. And that, we shall see, is a key ingredient in the sense of style.
The (Thurber’s) poetic reference is to Tennyson’s “The Brook”:
I come from haunts of coot and hern,
I make a sudden sally
And sparkle out among the fern,
To bicker down a valley.
Note: There is a Thurber-esque drawing on the book cover of a little man holding an over-sized fountain pen who is underlining “21st century” and adding an exclamation point. Hence, my idea to add a Thurber cartoon; “I come from haunts of coot and hern” clue via Language Log.