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Dead Languages

Shields, David

ISBN 10: 0394573889 / ISBN 13: 9780394573885
Published by Knopf, 1989
Used Condition: Fine Hardcover
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0394573889 Advance Review Copy. Bookseller Inventory # 009368

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Dead Languages

Publisher: Knopf

Publication Date: 1989

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

Edition: First Edition

About this title

Synopsis:

Washington State Book Award, 1990
Silver Medal, Commonwealth Club of California Book Awards, 1990


From the moment his mother tries unsuccessfully to coax him into saying "Philadelphia," Jeremy Zorn's life is framed by his unwieldy attempts at articulation. Through family rituals with his word-obsessed parents and sister, failed first love, an ill-fated run for class president, as the only Jewish boy on an otherwise all-black basketball team, all of the passages of Jeremy's life are marked in some way by his stutter and his wildly off-the-mark attempts at a cure. It is only when he enters college and learns his strong-willed mother is dying that he realizes all languages, when used as hiding places for the heart, are dead ones.

From the Back Cover:

From the moment his mother tries unsuccessfully to coax him into saying "Philadelphia," Jeremy Zorn's life is framed by his unwieldy attempts at articulation. Through family rituals with his word-obsessed parents and sister, failed first love, an ill-fated run for class president, as the only Jewish boy on an otherwise all-black basketball team, all of the passages of Jeremy's life are marked in some way by his stutter and his wildly off-the-mark attempts at a cure. It is only when he enters college and learns his strong-willed mother is dying that he realizes all languages, when used as hiding places for the heart, are dead ones.

A huge outpouring of praise has greeted David Shields's "astonishing and mordantly witty tour de force" (Lynne Sharon Schwartz) Dead Languages, the story of a boy who grows up stuttering so badly that he comes to worship words.  Jeremy Zorn is born into a family in which language is seen as the path to success.  His mother, a strong-willed journalist, attempts to cure Jeremy's stutter when he is four and leads him on his long journey to discover a way to overcome his affliction.  Singing, whispering, muteness, Latin conjunctions, a bit part in a major play, even a pseudosuicide are some of the strategies to which he turns, but by the time he enters college and learns that his mother is dying he realizes that all languages, when used as hiding places for the heart, are dead ones.  David Shields has written a novel that is not only a classic coming-of-age story but remarkably moving exploration of the difficulties we all have expressing love.

"An astonishing and mordantly witty tour de force. David Shields, a virtuoso of the written word, manages to make the halting, self-conscious agonies of his stuttering hero into a metaphor for all our disjointed, doomed attempts at self-definition through connection. He has transcended his subject and written a book that will touch everyone who has suffered over the inadequacies of speech to sustain life and love."--Lynne Sharon Schwartz

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