Once I’d encountered the word “hive-spangled” (a hyphenated compound that I’d imagine Hart Crane would have enjoyed using if not inventing outright—later I would come to find other gems like “blind-wrapped” and “ice-scabbed”) in E. Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News I knew I’d enjoy reading it. In fact, the book’s weaving of muscular bluntness with a lapidary lexicon (its grace marred and balance tipped, at times, by a heavy-handedness) buoyed me along in a narrative using the metaphor of knots, the use of which served to create a suffocating tension relieved only by a somewhat disappointing tying of many of the story’s dangling threads.
I’ve gotten into the habit of collecting words from books, and then entering them into what I call my “word-hoard.” Here’s my catch from The Shipping News (these words are best seen in their context, since Proulx uses each word carefully, never giving the impression that she’d flipped through a thesaurus to find unusual words):
waterweed, crenshaw, ruched, excoriation, saucisson, gyred, unguent, dolman, slovenly, tetter, doddering, atavistic, babushka, papillose, tuckamore, pumiced, auroral, craquelured, gansey, gledgy, knout, dottle, ocherous, dory, bight, nonpareil, yaffle, hove, char, stribbled, streeling, skreel, blatted, bollard, tatting, riven, duff, skivers, hangashore, ocky, trawl, vitrid, thunge, yawed, neap, drenty, turr, sadiron, skate-risp, skirling, skreaking, rhomboid, quadrate, bootjack, slewed, marlingspikes, fids, shinnicked, pelm, wizzled, cowling, screech, rucking, flobber, strigil, sinnits, glutch, slindgers, lunettes, hectoring, rondels, satinas, sputniks, komatik, mummers, jannies, graples, ichor, monger, twacking, whelk, jinker, caplin, hummocky, dishclout, bergy, ribband, noggin, shunt, sishy, hawser, lugubrious, and rine
John Madera is the author of Nervosities (Anti-Oedipus Press, 2024). His other fiction is published in Conjunctions, Salt Hill, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His nonfiction is published in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, New York State Council on the Arts awardee John Madera lives in New York City, Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.