Stephin Merritt’s 101 Two-Letter Words

by Mo

What garish, ghoulish, droolish, schoolgirlish little words of love sputter forth from the mouth of a longtime fan of Stephin Merritt? I could tell you about my first encounter with his music, circa 1996, and how Mr. Merritt, alongside his best gal Claudia and a host of similarly-minded accomplices, made spun-sugar pop and dirgey melodies out of couplets so droll and clever, witty and wise, that Cole Porter himself would probably wish to clock them with a Webster’s Third International. But you’re busy, and within the space of this blog post, I can’t make you feel how I feel. I can try to sell you a book, though, and encourage you to listen to his music.

Stephin Merritt is the songwriter behind the legendary band The Magnetic Fields. As a musician, he straddles the line between indie rock legend and heir to the Tin Pan Alley/Brill Building/Broadway musical school of songwriting. The way he tangles words with music is magic, and to me, magic is when someone finds the best words and stirs them together, resulting in an image or an idea or especially an idea about love that is impossibly real, or sad, or something you’ve just never thought of but have felt in your bones, late at night, headphones on.

You just might love Stephin Merritt for what he does with words.

Wordy types often enjoy the game of Scrabble (the New York Times recently followed him to a Scrabble match in Bryant Park) and Merritt counts himself among the game’s devotees. To that end, Merritt has produced a nifty little booklet filled with mnemonic devices to remember those score-valuable but easily forgotten (when do you use the word “oe” in daily conversation?) two-letter words. Teaming up with New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast (author of the recent book, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant), 101 Two-Letter Words is a must-have for the wordy person, the fabulous Scrabble aficionado, the New Yorker reader, and/or yourself.

On Friday, October 10, Merritt will be at BookPeople in conversation with one of our favorite local authors, Austin Kleon (Steal Like an Artist, Show Your Work).



“Of (rhymes with dove), a useful word

for amorous versifiers,

is in the Poet’s toolbox ‘neath

the needle-nosed pliers.”

Stephin Merritt will speak about and sign 101 Two-Letter Words here at BookPeople on Friday, October 10 at 7pm. The speaking portion of the event is free and open to the public. Tickets are required for the signing and only available with the purchase of a copy of 101 Two-Letter Words from BookPeople.


Can’t make it to the event? You can pre-order signed copies of 101 Two-Letter Words via We ship worldwide.  

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