Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Book Review: The Man Who Made Lists

The Man Who Made Lists: Love, Death, Madnesss, and the Creation of Roget's Thesaurus
Joshua Kendall

The Man Who Made Lists wants to be Simon Winchester's The Professor and the Madman. It isn't. It would probably settle for being Everything Explained That is Explainable. It isn't that, either. Joshua Kendall spends way too little time on the Thesaurus itself. He spends way too much time on psychoanalyzing Roget, frequently on the flimsiest of evidence. At various points he tells us not only how a conversation went, but what expressions were on people's faces or even what they were thinking. Since there are no end notes, there's no way to know on what basis (if any) Kendall makes these assertions. Buried in the end matter, however, is this:
Though all the scenes are based on actual events, in several instances, where primary source material was lacking, I offered my best approximation of specific details.
"Based on actual events," huh? 


  1. Ah, "based on actual events": the weaseler's favorite way to say "I made it up."

    1. Yup. I can take a little bit of imaginative license when describing, say, the weather, or what someone would likely have seen. When it comes to actual speech--including train-of-thoughts speech--I draw the line.