Roger Nelson and I were friends years ago. We had both returned to live with our parents after spending some time studying at BYU. I think each of us missed the academic stimuli that we had encountered at BYU, but that was absent somehow from Utah State. We hung out occasionally, going to concerts and movies, eating, or just talking. Roger was one of the smartest people I knew at that time. He, too, was an English major--and I loved having deep conversations with him. Roger challenged me to think in new ways about life. He was also funny, cute, liberal, and intellectually generous. At the time, I was a practicing Mormon--Roger, on the other hand, had already started defining a life outside Mormonism.
After I returned to BYU, Roger's life took another direction. He had flunked out of BYU (incredibly given he was so bright) and began a series of jobs at bookstores in Salt Lake. I saw him several times after that, once at the Y and a few times in Salt Lake. He stayed much the same: an inquisitive, avid reader with the ability to cut through the superficialities of life to examine it honestly and passionately. He was truly someone who lived a life of the mind.
I still have the book he gave me when I decided to return to BYU: Thomas Mann's Death in Venice. Folded in the pages of the book is the letter he wrote when he gave the book to me:
All the best English major.
Here's a Nobel Prize winner for you . . . a short (story) introduction.
For aesthetic transcendence listen to Mahler's 5th symphony (adagietto movement) while reading "Death in Venice." Then see the movie when it comes to International Cinema.
Run well at Brigham Young
(as fast as a leopard)
(to feel His pleasure)