For Tuesday, January 12, 2016:
“Don’t you love the Oxford Dictionary? When I first read it, I thought it was a really, really long poem about everything.”
“The final lesson a writer learns is that everything can nourish the writer. The dictionary, a new word, a voyage, an encounter, a talk on the street, a book, a phrase learned.”
Anais Nin, attributed – FRENCH WRITERS OF THE PAST
Allow me, please, to disagree with Ms. Nin a little, albeit with respect. I believe this is one of the first lessons a writer learns – though I think it’s likely more a realization. It’s also not only a first one or a final one. As David Bowie showed us, writers – and probably all artists – know this is a lesson that is lifelong.
I remember doing something similar to Bowie. While I didn’t read dictionaries as though they were books, I almost always went far beyond the word or words I was looking up. I did this with encyclopedias, too. Growing up, we had one set of encyclopedias about all the world cultures that I would explore, without a particular research subject, just to find out more about different peoples and places. I could really get lost in those.
The resource section of my bookcase over there has two or three etymology books, a one-volume encyclopedia, The Oxford Companion to English Literature and The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, along with the requisite thesauruses (two different ones) and a dictionary. Sometimes I’ll pick out one to read when I feel the need for nourishment, something to relax into.
I do agree with Ms. Nin about all the other things, and I could add others as well. Now I can add reading the dictionary like a poem. I really like that – and maybe I can write one, too.