Part of the blog challenge I was doing was to write a letter to someone that you would never send. This isn't really something I wanted to do, seeing as how it seemed quite personal, but I think I've got it figured out. I'm going to write Jon Krakauer a love letter. I just finished reading Into Thin Air by Krakauer, and another of his books, Into the Wild, has been one of my favorite books for years. Into Thin Air (read the Times review here), is Krakauer's personal account of the disaster on Mt. Everest in May 1996. There is something about the way that Krakauer writes that makes me want to do the most insane things -- yesterday, I thought, well, maybe I could climb Everest. And after I read Into the Wild 7 years ago, burning all of my money and hitchhiking to Alaska sounded like an amazing time, even if the experience might end with me frozen to death in an abandoned van.
I grew up with an ambition and determination without which, I would have been a good deal happier. I thought a lot and developed the far-away look of a dreamer, for it was always the distant heights which fascinated me and drew me to them in spirit. I was not sure what could be accomplished by means of tenacity and little else, but the target was set high and each rebuff only saw me more determined to see at least one major dream through to its fulfillment.
-Earl Denman, Alone to Everest, quoted by Krakauer in Into the Wild
But I don't just love Krakauer for the crazy ideas he puts in my mind, I love him for his vocabulary. Into Thin Air is 374 pages long. Contained in those pages were 51 words that I did not know the definition of. Well, I knew the definition to some of them, but not the exact definition. I could figure out the meaning of the rest because of the context and not knowing the exact definition did not hinder my reading in any way. But this is not good enough for me. I have a sick fascination with words, with the written word, and with the people who get to string them together for a living. I looked up the proper definition of all 51 words, typed them into a Word document, folded this paper in half and placed it inside the book for the next reader. While I already knew generally what loquacious, ebullient, and vertiginous mean, I needed to know Mr. Webster's idea of what those words mean. In addition to the words I knew, I learned a handful of new words to work into my vocabulary -- peripatetic, mellifluous, parvenus, crepuscular, prevarication, carapace, and mirabile visu, to name a few. Sometimes it's nice to be reminded that I don't know nearly as much as I think I do.
I guess I never got around to actually writing a letter, but I think you get the point.
Is it not a joy to learn? And to practice and share what you have learned? -Kung Fu-tze
On a related note, I want this book.