I really had the best job in the country, as editor of Canada’s national encyclopedia.
It was kismet for a boy whose irritated mother sarcastically called him “know it all!” As a kid in West End Toronto, I was obsessed with the only two books in our house, a one-volume encyclopedia and a small pocket dictionary my father carried with him in the war. I memorized maps and capitals and painters’ names from the encyclopedia—30 years out of date as it turned out. My father, who claimed to have memorized the whole dictionary, would rouse me from sleep in the middle of the night and make me query him on definitions (I had to be diplomatic about wrong answers as he was an agitated man when drunk and accused of error).
Another happenstance struck when a misguided teacher in high school determined to punish me by sentencing me to the school library to hand copy articles from Encyclopedia Britannica. Bliss.