Writers have a way with words. In the case of this writer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2008, words are more likely to have their challenging way with him.
In a memoir as brief as a poem, Schultz (Failure, 2007, etc.) reflects on his dyslexia, a lifelong disability that was not diagnosed until late into his adulthood. He learned, with difficulty, to read at age 11. He was generally regarded as simply a stupid youngster. His mother had faith that her only child was truly bright, but his father was not helpful. The boy’s different neurological wiring produced a lonely, unresponsive child, and he was invited by his school’s administration to leave. And yet the poet survived, learned to process information and to read and write—though it’s not easy, even now. Schultz would like, mostly, just to be left alone to cogitate in his own way. Reading still does not come quickly. The author loves books, he writes, “except actually reading them.” Yet he demonstrates a lambent, odd contact with words: “Anything whispered, insinuated or abbreviated becomes in my mind a mumble-jumble bargain-basin [stet] gibberish.” His memoir, jogged into realization when he followed his Pulitzer Prize with an address at a school for the learning disabled, was not effortless. Today he heads a school that teaches writing. The author recognizes that his teenage son shares the same diagnosis, but this is his own story, not his child’s. Is the very notion of a dyslexic author an anomaly? How does the mind of a dyslexic work? Here, at least, are the answers for one man alone.
Under the rubric of “inspirationally instructive,” Schultz offers a compact book. Yet, writing with a focused mind, he dilates at length on the struggle within that mind.