Although I read a lot I do have a great deal of difficulty in remembering words (and their meanings) if I’m not using or encountering them frequently. This is very frustrating as I’d like to be far more eloquent and articulate than I am, particularly as I do read a lot. I had the same problem going right back to when I was in school. I’m poor at retaining any information (not only vocabulary) unless I’m working at it all the time. I’d say this is also a significant reason why I’ve never been able to learn a foreign language despite trying frequently (French, German, Spanish, Italian, even Latin).
Be that as it may, it’s always a wonder to pick up a Cormac McCarthy novel and discover once more the richness of his vocabulary. I read Suttree several years ago but just picked it up again this evening to re-read the two and a half page introduction. He had me reaching for the dictionary several times within the first page, to confirm the meaning of familiar words but others I’m pretty sure I’ve never encountered before (apart from when I read Suttree first time round - damn my memory).
My own humble attempts at writing will never be anywhere near this good because I don’t have the depth and richness of vocabulary to create a convincing world through description.
At least, if nothing else, I can console myself with enjoying and appreciating incredible writing and writers.