Plenty of Matches
Here’s the challenge: You are going to be leaving for an undetermined period, to a destination with lots of time, and little need for industry, and may take exactly one book with you. One. You can take any book on the face of the planet, but only one. So the challenge is to decide which book. Take your time-we’ve plenty of that.
My choice would require no time for cogitation, because my book would include all of your selections, by definition. I would choose a dictionary. Oh, boo. What a let-down, say you, a veritable copout if ever there was one.
The truth of the matter is that, whereas I read with great interest the ongoing sharing of favorite titles, and the presentation of lists of books that are universally appreciated, I do not read much for pleasure these days, simply because reading got squeezed out off of my “plate,” as a result of overcrowding.
Annie says that is a byproduct of having spent a lifetime reading every genre of book written, and feeling no compunctions about re-reading favorites. I have been presented with the classics since I was in primary school, and have spent my life feasting on the prose of Dickens, Dostoyevsky, and Zola. I took four classes at SJSU in Shakespeare. I had eleven classes in English, without being an English major, when I decided maybe I should apply for a minor.
On the other hand, included in those classes were four on Old English, and one on Chaucer (Middle English). Including Shakespeare, which by the way, is written in Modern English, despite the presence of a plethora of quaint expressions that require context and/or research to comprehend, that makes nine classes dealing with English as it developed and transitioned to what it is today.
My interest has shifted from reading the music of our language, as presented by others, to orchestrating that music into my own version of how words may be arranged. I am hopelessly ensnared by the etymology of words, by the subtle nuances distinguishing one word from another. What IS the difference between convoluted, complex, and intricate, and how do you know when one words applies, and the other two don’t?
Alongside the obvious-who cares?-approach, is a one in which the answer to that question, is the most important aspect of the piece of writing-for me. As nerdy as this sounds, I am perfectly content to scan the dictionary guide words, for one that piques my interest. [I can see everyone moving away from me on the Group W bench of life-seriously? You like to read the dictionary? Speaking of twisted...]
However, I always feel that words are worth the effort to get to know, so as to be able to present the best words, in the best possible order. I hate to go back through and edit-I rarely do it. I rely on the words that I initially chose, and hesitate to substitute a different one. Therefore, I like to have a nice repository of available choices.
Included in my seven gifts I received at Christmas were one dictionary, one thesaurus, one book on the etymology of idioms, as they originated in different cultures, a book entitled “I Never Metaphor I Didn’t Like,” and Sue Grafton’s “V is for Vengeance.” Those around me know what lights my fire. I know, it’s sad.
But at least I have plenty of matches.