‘The grammarian was choking to death on her own words.’ (Spellwright by Blake Charlton 2010)
Blake Charlton has become ‘The Man’ for moi this month. Maybe you don’t know who he is. Why should this old lady have elected him, her man of not just this month- but every month for all my time? He wrote a book just for me! Well, no, maybe not just for me – I do know for a fact he has never in his life heard of me, and probably never will. Stop wittering you old fool, maybe you are saying now – I will explain.
When I was young, back in the 40s, I was told I was stupid. Stupid? Well I took their word for it although frustratingly I couldn’t see why I was. We are talking about a dim distant past when the nearest the school got to my problems was to say I had clumsy child syndrome, and was backward and naughty. Other fancy labels were not there. No-one’s fault. Just was.
I couldn’t spell, forgot the rules of grammar and don’t even mention punctuation. Some days I could, the next I couldn’t – not just stupid but wilful as well! It wasn’t from lack of trying, endless lists of words at school and at home. To no avail. You, to whom spelling and grammar are like breathing and movement, I have no way to explain what it is like not to posses the knowledge, the skill. No way to explain the depressing frustration of yet again getting it wrong. The humiliation attendant on not being able to control my own language. I write too often these days to ask my friend from forever/editor to check everything I write, only my books. I have to chance it elsewhere. The words need to come.
I have always been able to read well and understand what I read. With thoughts of dazzlingly clarity and sparkle up there in my head. Words, I loved them. Somewhere between thought and mouth there appeared to be a marshland of sudden potholes, rank undergrowth and small slippery word eating monsters. What was in my head didn’t necessarily come out of my mouth. Words would twist and jump into the wrong order, random thoughts unrelated to the matter in hand could unexpectedly intervene and worst of all the clarity became turgid and cloudy. I could never explain to people what I knew. The insults were just words twisted in the journey, as too was the apparent rudeness. I was only asked once to give the vote of thanks to a visiting judge at our photographic club – never again, as somehow(still don’t know what I said) I managed to say he was rubbish!!!
I was socially inept. I withdrew – I was stupid. I had the books. They gave me my dreams.
Years later – and I do mean years – around about the time I began to harbour the most ridiculous thought that I would like to go to university – a menopausal hiccup if ever there was:) I read an interesting article about a strange sounding disorder called Dyspraxia. He! All those symptoms sounded familiar. Maybe. Maybe. I tucked the thought into my mind and carried on with my ridiculous idea. I gained a BSc Hons and an MA. I wasn’t stupid!! Did this mean everything changed – not really I was still socially inept and linguistically unreliable.
In the intervening years personally computers had thrived – the internet was up and buzzing and information was there for the plucking. I grew more intrigued with dyspraxia and finally when I was 60+ asked the doctor, who confirmed it. A young friend of mine who also keeps my eyes in good order suggested that I was slightly dyslexic as well – I argued over this for a long time – I could read well and swiftly, what on earth was she on about? We have proved her diagnosis between us.
So now we come to Blake Charlton – a dyslexic – an author. I didn’t know the first when I idly picked a book up from the village library the other day. I am this year renewing my acquaintance with ‘fantasy’ after years away and I have joined a challenge to read new authors. There was Spellwright shouting at me from the shelves. The title alone would have drawn me – the blurb hooked me instantly.
Nicodemus Weal cannot spell! In a world where magic spells are written in your muscles. In a world where words have a concrete form, where they can literally choke you, can form tumours, shred your insides where they can form ropes and strangle and trip you. Nicodemus wants to be a magician but his bad spelling can twist a spell into something else. Ah please, it was my book, mine.
I had that book home so fast you couldn’t see me for churned up snow:) Nothing got done as I read. Nicodemus, a new hero of my life. But the real hero of my life is his creator Blake Charlton. Not just a dyslexic author but a young man who has conquered his disability, one who has graduated from Yale, has taught English, gone through medical school and still remembers when words could choke you. Remembered when words had a reality only those who cannot manage them appreciate. A young man who could write a magic system to explain all this, and base it on science, DNA and other stuff I love.
Spellwright borrowed from the village library, now winging its way from Amazon to me. Spellwright which was written for me and for anyone else who knew they could ‘do wondrous things’ if only they could corral those words. Spellwright with the most imaginative magic system I have come across. Smashing.
Thank you Blake Charlton. You will never know the pleasure it has given me, because even if we met the words to explain would never behave:)