STUTTERING by Marty Jezer


A Life Bound Up in Words
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 An engaging autobiography focusing on the author's lifelong struggle to achieve verbal and metaphysical fluency. Jezer (Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel, 1992, etc.), a '60s revolutionary, a supporter of environmentalism and feminism, and a chronicler of New Age self-fulfillment, focuses here on the mechanical and psychological dynamics of his chronic, often severe, stuttering. Even before getting involved in the author's childhood traumas, the reader must adjust to a plethora of technical terms involving the mechanics of speech, along with competing theories and therapies to contain disfluency. But that adjustment is easy because Jezer, when he's discussing relevant bits of genetics, neurology, or psychology, never loses sight of the universality of themes like human communication, vulnerability, and self-worth. In fact, there's a nice mix of the personal and the general throughout. The snapshots of Jezer's long struggle are vivid. Growing up ``loquacious in thought'' only, he requires ``an act of God'' to spare him from sounding like ``Porky Pig . . . reciting a prayer in a Jewish temple'' at his bar mitzvah. The pain of growing up with a handicap in the ``it's all in your mind'' '50s doesn't much moderate as the author, now grown, copes with employment and relationship problems. This highly communicative writer describes the stutterer's fear of telephones and tape recorders, and describes various speech therapists, their methods, philosophies, and relative successes. We also discover that the breathy speech of Marilyn Monroe and the oratorical exactness of Winston Churchill were the results of compensating for their stuttering. Jezer, the Bronx adman who takes on union busters and Klansmen, matures into a ponytailed Vermonter who finally achieves 60 percent fluency after overcoming laryngospasm and mastering continuity with syllable-stretching exercises. A ``Zen and the Art of Speech Therapy,'' deftly mingling the particulars of a humiliating struggle with the wider disruptions and challenges of life.

Pub Date: June 4th, 1997
ISBN: 0-465-08127-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1997


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by Katherine Preston