Can a writer be said to have a favorite among all her stepchildren—her shelves and shelves of books? I do.
Here it is. Webster’s New Dictionary of Synonyms, ed. 1968 (graced with the presence of a most demanding photo assistant.) I bought it in a used bookstore in NYC many years after its publication. The frontispiece is marked “2.95” in pencil in a vaguely European hand.
It is one of the non-living things I would consider taking as my one saved possession from a burning house. My life has been lived in its pages.
The volume has been much used—and not carefully. The cover is stained. The edges are chewed. The spine is broken where it meets the cover. The pages are ecru with age. And I love it with an abandon that borders on rabid fanaticism.
Imagine…a book that will describe for you the minute variations in shades of grey, the subtleties of glorious color, the difference between one idea and another. I’ve opened it just now, at random. My finger has found the entry for foretell…and its cousins predict, forecast, prophesy, prognosticate, augur, presage, portend and forebode.
I lost it for a while, in one of the boxes of “Best Books” that have accompanied my moves. The relief I felt in finding it again is almost indescribable…the way I would feel discovering that lost Moe the Cat (see: demanding photo assistant above) was only curled up in a closet. It has pride of place, now, beside me; closed yet waiting.
I have sat with this volume for hours, literally, leafing through its entries the way an art connoisseur leafs through a Christie’s auction catalog. I study it the way I used to study font books back when I started in advertising. For the pure pleasure of it.
That one word is not exactly like the next…that there is a best choice in every sentence, every paragraph…that tarragon, for instance, will not flavor a dish the way thyme will…that the alchemy of magical phrases happens only when the elements are precisely and lovingly rendered: These are some of my favorite knowings as a writer.
My muse’s raiment may be tattered but, despite it, she remains queenly and magnificent. I go humble to her presence.
To switch up the imagery…on the map of Lynn, Here be the Mojo. The Mojo of Me.