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About Stephen Glazier

Photos of Stephen Glazier

Photos of Stephen Glazier

Photos by Lisa Andreini

Biography of the Author

(From Random House Webster's Word Menu)

Stephen Glazier was born in 1947 in Washington, D.C. A gifted child, he learned to read and write at an early age, encouraged by parents who read to him from the English classics. When he was five years old, the family moved to California. Inspired by family trips to the Shakespeare festival in Ashland, Oregon, Stephen began writing plays at the age of seven on such subjects as the Trojan War, the Three Musketeers, and English royal history. He skipped several grades in elementary school and later attended high school in Exeter, New Hampshire, and La Jolla, California. During his senior year in La Jolla, he was both managing editor of the school paper and a reporter for a local weekly, La Jolla Journal. After graduation in 1965 he was admitted to Harvard University, his father's alma mater.

Although he did well at Harvard, after a year he decided to follow his La Jolla classmates, most of whom had enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley. This was then the center of the Free Speech movement and a Mecca for the radical young. At Berkeley, Stephen majored in theater, wrote plays, marched in the streets, and became involved with the music scene in the Bay area. He graduated from Berkeley in 1969 and the following year toured Great Britain and the Continent. While in London, he began writing a novel, a sprawling saga of three different families, which he called Patches. It was while working on this novel, part of which was set in the 1800s, that he started going through a recently acquired unabridged dictionary, making lists of words, mostly clothing and housing terms, to use in the historical sections of the novel.

The word list expanded as did the novel, which by 1977 had grown to 1400 pages. To make ends meet while writing, Glazier taught English as a second language and spent three months every winter doing income tax work for various accounting firms. In 1978 he found a literary agent and began working at once on the first draft of a new historical novel, The Lost Provinces. This book was published in 1981 to excellent reviews, and a year later was optioned for a movie. The producer who optioned it invited Glazier to write the screenplay, which resulted in a new career in Los Angeles as a screenwriter, copywriter, and editor.

In 1982 Glazier became associate editor of the Disney Channel magazine, where he wrote descriptions of shows and on-air programming material. Meanwhile his lists of words continued to grow. One day in 1984 he showed the lists of colors and of verbs of motion to a fellow copywriter at the Disney Channel. His colleague asked to see more of the lists and suggested to Glazier that his personal writer's tool might benefit other writers.

This prospect led Glazier to develop a more systematic and comprehensive approach to his word collection. Recognizing that he was dissatisfied with the existing methods of classifying words and information, he made a study of the classification systems used by Melvil Dewey (of the Dewey catalog system), the Library of Congress, and Peter Mark Roget, back to Francis Bacon and the trivium and quadrivium of the Middle Ages. The system he finally developed combined a traditional approach to the division of knowledge with a contemporary hierarchical structure influenced by the computer age. Glazier believed this to be a compelling marriage of classic and modern intellectual elements.

During the next two years he divided his time between synopsizing science fiction stories for the story department of Steve Spielberg's Amazing Stories, working on the draft of a new historical novel, The Caliph's Cup, and organizing his lists of words on a 64K CPM computer.

By 1985 the basic format and nucleus of what was to become the present book had been worked out, and Glazier's agent had begun submitting proposals for the book to publishing houses. After several rounds of submissions, one publisher accepted it and Glazier set out to create the large book of words he envisioned. He hired a staff of research assistants and solicited investors for the project. Within a year he was able to raise the funds he needed. Much of the money went to pay for consultants in the many fields covered in the book. Glazier himself consulted over four hundred books for glossary words and verification of usages.

Two years of work produced a 2000-page manuscript, which was too long for the publisher. A new round of submissions began while Glazier continued working on the book. Finally, in 1989, a 2500-page manuscript was submitted to Random House, and a year later this firm bought the book rights to what is now the Random House Webster's Word Menu™. Glazier was jubilant, for this was the house he had always hoped would publish his book.

During the following two years Glazier became almost a fixture in the Random House Reference Department. He was a charming, personable man, filled with energy and creativity. No amount of work seemed to faze him. He was indefatigable. He could spend hours researching a single fact, for nothing but the truth would satisfy him. He was welcomed at Random House as a colleague and friend, having earned the affection and esteem of the Reference Department staff.

In the fall of 1991, after putting the finishing touches on the now 3000-page manuscript, Glazier set out for a well-deserved vacation in Mexico. Some weeks later friends and relatives received alarming news that he was seriously ill and was returning to New York City for hospital tests and treatment. The tests showed that he had a malignant brain tumor. After surgery and extensive radiation therapy, Stephen seemed to be doing better. Though he was physically debilitated, his mind was alert and his personality as warm and outgoing as always. His will to live and work was evident. He had lengthy discussions with his agent, editors and publisher over plans for this book. Always by his side was his beloved wife, the actress Anna Raviv, whom he had met in 1985. He seemed happy and at peace. Early in 1992, his condition suddenly worsened. Stephen died on January 20, 1992. He was forty-four years old.


Author Stephen Glazier

Author Stephen Glazier


Stephen Glazier and Anna Raviv

The author with his wife, actress Anna Raviv


Steve with his final manuscript

Steve patting the final manuscript

"Shots of Steve in his office just before he submitted the final manuscript to Random House... This was about 6 months before his first really bad symptoms appeared. He looks really proud of himself - doesn't he? He was so proud of how tall his manuscript was."

—Anna Raviv
February 16, 2002

Steve lifting his final manuscript

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