The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy

Priscilla Gilman, Author
Priscilla Gilman, Harper, $24.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-169027-3
Reviewed on: 02/28/2011
Release date: 05/01/2011
Ebook - 304 pages - 978-0-06-207826-1
Paperback - 419 pages - 978-0-06-172016-1
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-199400-5
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-210349-9
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-06-169028-0
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The daughter of literary agent Lynn Nesbit and the late theater drama critic Richard Gilman crafts a beautifully sinuous and intensely literary celebration of the exceptional, unconventional child. Her son, Benjamin, was born when she and her academic husband, Richard, were in graduate school at Yale, where she was still working on her dissertation on the Romantic English poet William Wordsworth. As "Benj" grew older and failed to hit the usual milestones of children his age, exhibiting brilliant but "odd" behavior such as an obsession with numbers, aversion to physical affection, fastidiousness, inability to feed himself, and echolalia, Gilman realized these were "uncontrollable manifestations of a disorder," namely hyperlexia. Falsely reassured by their well-intentioned pediatrician, the couple finally sought professional therapists, and after they relocated to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where both got teaching jobs at Vassar, Benj made marvelous progress in school. Throughout her narrative, Gilman extracts from many of Wordsworth's poems, which comment on innocence and loss and gave Gilman tremendous succor during Benjamin's early development, making for both charming and studious reading. Her thoughtful memoir involves the breakup of her marriage, rejection of an academic career, and move to New York City to work in her mother's literary agency as much as it delves lyrically into the rare, complex mind of the unusual child. (May)
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