I don't think a day goes by that I don't consult Roget's Thesaurus. It's different these days — I do it mostly online — but the thrill of finding the perfect word remains intact. There's a new biography out about the man who started it all. Here's a review:
By HENRY C. JACKSON
If the instinctive snobbery could be set aside for a moment, the denizens of the literary world would probably acknowledge Peter Mark Roget’s lasting contribution to writing.
If they are being totally honest, they might even own up to consulting his magnum opus sometime during the last week, if not in the last hour. Or the last minute.
Roget’s life’s work — the English language’s most comprehensive and acclaimed thesaurus — has, for more than a century served as an equal opportunity literary enabler. More than 40 million copies have been sold. The weary college dorm rat trying to make a term paper sparkle and the uppity Great American Novelist in training alike consult its pages, and if they say they don’t? The suspicion here is that it’s a bit of a taradiddle (a fib).
The order and simplicity of Roget’s Thesaurus was a stark contrast — and, Joshua Kendall argues in his new book, a tonic — to the hurly-burly and chaotic life of the man who created it.
The Man Who Made Lists: Love, Death, Madness and the Creation of Roget’s Thesaurus (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 304 pages, $25.95), Kendall’s solid new biography, offers a theory for Roget that could apply to any number of more conventional literary greats: For him, words were therapy.