Monday, February 20, 2012

Nero Wolfe and Words

I was telling someone about how much I have enjoyed Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe detective novels over the years. The stories are outstanding, but I have also learned many words and strengthened my existing vocabulary, my diction, and my understanding of grammar through these novels.
Wolfe is a colorful, crotchety character, an orchid-growing genius gourmet, who never leaves his house on business. A little eccentric you say? Indubitably. Here are a few vignettes from just the first few pages of Stout’s 1962 suspense thriller, Gambit, the 37th in the 47-title Nero Wolfe corpus.
Archie Goodwin, Wolfe’s sidekick, assistant, and "man Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday" is explaining the situation to their newest prospective client, Miss Blount. “There’s a fireplace in the front room, but it’s never lit because he hates open fires. He says they stultify mental processes. But it’s lit now because he’s using it. He’s seated in front of it, on a chair too small for him, tearing sheets out of a book and burning them. The book is the new edition, the third edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary, Unabridged, published by the G.C. Merriam Company of Springfield, Massachusetts. He considers it subversive because it threatens the integrity of the English language. In the past week he has given me a thousand examples of its crimes.”
“Once he burned up a cookbook because it said to remove the hide from a ham end before putting it in the pot with lima beans. Which he loves more, food or words, is a tossup. “

Wolfe: “Do you use ‘infer’ and ‘imply’ interchangeably, Miss Blount?” She did fine. She said simply, “No.”
“This book says you may. Pfui. I prefer not to interrupt this auto-da-fe. You wish to consult me?”

“She had hit exactly the right note, calling him a wizard and implying (not inferring) that he was the one and only—after mentioning what she had in her bag ($22,000).”

“Will this burn?” “Sure, it’s buckram…You knew you were going to burn it when you bought it. Otherwise, you would have ordered leather.”


Bonnie said...

I can't see or hear "NERO WOLFE" and not think of you !

Sabba and Nanny said...

It's unfortunate more people have not discovered him. Maybe the millions who read my blog will be inspired!!!

Michael Hogan said...

I am a fan of Rex Stout's detective for years and have read each of his books AT LEAST once. In that vein, I have written a murder mystery as an homage to Nero and Archie. My book -- DYING HAND TO MOUTH -- is available as an e-book download from Amazon. Thank you.

Michael Hogan