Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The dictionary rule

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James Tate

Interviewer: Your vocabulary is also striking. I noticed you have a huge open dictionary in the other room. Were you always a reader of dictionaries?

Tate: Yes. But I don’t want to exaggerate. I’ve always had second thoughts when I want to send the reader to a dictionary. Is it worth it for readers to come upon a word they don’t really know? I don’t like to do that.

Interviewer: Instead, you find a word that we all kind of know, but don’t use.

Tate: That’s right. Not a word that you use every day. In fact you may not have ever used the word. But you vaguely know it. That’s the limit. I don’t want to go over that limit too much.

James Tate, to Charles Simic at The Paris Review

Written by nevalalee

July 12, 2015 at 7:30 am

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