Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Author Drawn to Words as a Child

Although I don’t know the relevant science (and the nature vs. nurture debate continues robustly), it does seem that some future writers (and readers!) very early on reveal an irresistible attraction to the written word. In “On Saramago” (Threepenny Review, Spring 2013), Margaret Jull Costa quotes the Nobel Prize winning Portuguese writer Jose Saramago on his childhood love of reading. Although he came from an extremely poor family, his father did bring home a newspaper, Diario de Noticias, every day. Saramago writes (in his memoir “Small Memories”) that “I was reading even before I could spell properly, even though I couldn’t necessarily understand what I was reading. Being able to identify a word I knew was like finding a signpost on the road telling me I was on the right path, heading in the right direction. And so it was, in this rather unusual way, Diario by Diario, month by month, pretending not to hear the jokey comments made by the adults in the house, who were amused by the way I would stare at the newspaper as if at a wall, that my moment to astonish them finally came, when, one day, nervous but triumphant, I read out loud, in one go, without hesitation, several consecutive lines of print.” I can imagine the little boy, earnestly and passionately focused on extracting meaning out of the little black symbols, intuitively knowing they were the key to something important and magical that would be his life’s blood, his destiny.

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