Cathleen Schine

Cindy Seip

Cathleen Schine is the author of They May Not Mean to, But They Do; The Three Weissmanns of Westport; and The Love Letter, among other novels. She has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, and The New York Times Book Review. Cathleen Schine’s novel The Grammarians (Sarah Crichton Books) is a comic love letter to sibling rivalry and the beauty, mischief, and occasional treachery of language. The Grammarians are Laurel and Daphne Wolfe, identical, inseparable redheaded twins who share an obsession with words. They speak a secret “twin” tongue of their own as toddlers; as adults making their way in 1980s Manhattan, their verbal infatuation continues, but this love, which has always bound them together, begins instead to push them apart. Daphne, copy editor and grammar columnist, devotes herself to preserving the dignity and elegance of Standard English. Laurel, who gives up teaching kindergarten to write poetry, is drawn, instead, to the polymorphous, chameleon nature of the written and spoken word. Their fraying twinship finally shreds completely when the sisters go to war, absurdly but passionately, over custody of their most prized family heirloom: Merriam Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition. The Grammarians is a playful and joyful celebration of the interplay of language and life. Benjamin Dreyer, bestselling author of Dreyer’s English, wrote in the New York Times that “One might well expect a novel about dictionary-obsessed identical twins to throw off one clever, coruscating observation or bit of wordplay after another […]. And The Grammarians certainly does that, and does it wonderfully well. Yet as I read on I found myself not only fascinated and amused―because, I must underline, it’s often hugely funny―but deeply moved, because this is also a novel of great and often aching feeling.”