Friday, March 10, 2006

More about child prodigies

Back in January, I mentioned a couple of child prodigies. In doing so, I declared that I am not happy about such super-bright children.

Yes, I think that the future of the world depends very largely on intelligence as enlightened by education. And yes, I am always pleased to come across evidence of intelligence. But no, I am not at all happy when super-bright kids are put on public display and we are invited to be impressed. I don't think it's good for the kids and I don't think it's good for anyone else, and I question the judgement of the adults who are involved in arranging such exhibitions of precosity.

I have been reminded of my January post on this subject by an anonymous correspondent who yesterday added, by way of a comment on what I said, an extensive quotation from an Observer article of 19 February.

The Observer takes pleasure in informing us that eight-year-old Adora Sitvak is on her way over here to encourage British kids to read and write.

Needless to say, ten-year-old Libby Rees is dragged into the story. We are told that she is to host her own Trisha-style TV chat show later this year. Right. That's probably immediately after Hollywood have made the movie of her self-help book.

If you'll excuse me, I really don't think I want to give any further consideration to all this.

5 comments:

jamie ford said...

I can't help but feel a wary tinge of doubt.

Anyone remember art prodigy Marla Olm? The 4-year old made $40k in a NY gallery showing only to be unmasked on 60 Minutes. Her parents, both artists had helped out "just a little".

Iain said...

'Libby Rees, Adora Sitvak', says the GOB. 'Marla Olmstead,' responds Jamie Ford. (Don't abbreviate her, Jamie, there's little enough of her as it is.) Well, let me throw Emma Maree Urquhart (already of GOB notoriety) and James Harries into the mix. Look 'em up if you don't know, or can't remember.

Whatever political correctness might say ('All people are exactly equal in every possible way' for example) it should be blindingly obvious that even the most brilliant children cannot be great writers, great artists or serious authorities on anything. They simply haven't had time to develop the expertise.

Late teens (Thomas Chatterton, Francoise Sagan, to name the only two that come instantly to mind) is probably the earliest that anyone can produce literary work of any lasting value.

Even the ultimate child prodigy, Mozart, would be virtually forgotten if he had died before the age of 25.

Today's little wonders are victims of the media age. A few exaggerated claims (or downright lies) by media-savvy parents or minders, the ability to sound the part in front of a friendly interviewer, and they're off.

Poor devils.

Anonymous said...

Dear GOB,

You may be really up to your throat with Young Writers, but these twins I stumbled across are NOT media hyped at all - yet? Even though their background is fascinating (if not newsworthy).

TWIN TEEN NOVELISTS

See http://www.twins.guptara.net

These two are 17yr olds, so it looks like they have a successful normal childhood behind them!!! Lucky things eh?

ALSO published by AULTBEA - and by Tara Press, a highly esteemed literary New-Delhi based Indian publisher.

You MUST check out the Endorsements (http://www.twins.guptara.net/conspiracy.htm#endorsements) from some famous and respectable names - I promise you will be surprised. (You may have noticed that none of the previous Aultbea child prodigies had endorsements or even a book review as far as I can tell).

Iain, is 17 - nearly 18 - old enough?

Sounds a little like Eragon's Christopher Paolini to me (but I hope not as derivative).

Abe said...

Being a 17-year-old budding "literary prodigy" myself, :D (My, we are rather quick to label people, aren't we?) I'm currently working on a sci-fi epic space-odyssey novel. (a wee more literary in nature than the standard sci-fi novel)

I think you are right, to a point, that young people do not have the experience or maturity or patience(patience is the biggest thing, in my humble opinion) it takes to write a novel.

However, (as I have obvious reason to argue) there are exceptions. I think I am at least one teenager who has aquired the patience and know-how to write not merely a quality book, but an insightful and exploratory book. The key, I've found, is putting the emphasis on A.insight over just saying whatever-the-heck and B. writing as exploration rather than manifesto. Those two things, combined with having a crappy and tumultuous life that's required a lot of soul-searching up till now to figure it out and get it in order (albeit would make fascinating fodder for a memoir someday. . .:D), have made me into who I am today.

It is true, writing is not the forte of young people. (The vast majority of whom have only slightly more insight into the world as a brick wall) However, there are exceptions, and I am likely not the only one. There are probabley lots of people like me with untapped potential. We just don't know about them.

Anonymous said...

Unlike Mr. Paolini, I try to come up with my own original ideas (however original and wacky) as opposed to copping every other writer in my genre. (I'm about three-quarters finished, but the endings got to be done perfectly, so it's taking time)

I'm firmly convinced that originality+actually having something relevant to say+the "prodigy" factor (let's not kid ourselves, it sells books)=bestseller waiting to happen.

At least that's what I'm hoping. (Fingers crossed) It's a formula I intend to test, whether it leads there or to magnificent flaming failure. Only time will tell, eh?