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A Nose for Words

This article by Joshua Henkin (HC ’87) first appeared in the New York Times Book Review

JHThe day John Lennon was shot, just across the park from where I attended high school, was also the day my P.S.A.T. scores came in. The news wasn’t good. The problem was my vocabulary; I didn’t know enough words. And so, while the rest of the world was laying flowers at the Dakota, I found myself at the Stanley H. Kaplan Educational Center, where, for 10 Sundays, I was enrolled in reform school.

Most writers will tell you that as children, while their friends were busy chopping off toads’ legs, they were seated under a tree reading Austen and Melville. I, however, was one of the leg choppers. I spent all my free time playing basketball, and even though I dutifully lugged my Barron’s test prep book to summer camp before my junior year, I did so talismanically. I seemed to think that as long as the book made the trip, my vocabulary would improve…[more]

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