This column was in a Vermont newspaper. The author is a nurse who writes a weekly column on health care issues.



It's important to be reminded, every once in awhile, that a lot of things on this planet are not within your realm of understanding or experience. My recent rude awakening came when I started reading Marty Jezer's new book, Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words.

As a health care professional, I have felt that I have tried to be empathetic to people with physical and/or behavioral difficulties. I have looked upon people with these kinds of problems as human beings who have given me the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective.

But when I started reading Jezer's book, I realized that I had never looked beyond the superficial aural obviousness of stuttering. I have heard people stutter all my life, yet I had never stopped to think what stuttering means to the stutterer. It's embarrassing to admit that I never thought what kind of anxiety a phone call or a comment in a group of people might create for someone who stutters.

Thanks to Marty Jezer, I have had my introduction to the world of stuttering and I have begun to see how a person's life can be shaped by disfluency. Because Jezer is a smart guy with a charismatic personality, I have been able to ignore the fact that he stutters and sweep it under the rug because he always makes his point in a timely and intelligent way when he speaks.

When you read his book, which is a blend of autobiography and what should become a classic work on stuttering, you realize that most stutterers have to deal with high levels of anxiety, fear and alienation when they have to use the speech that the rest of us take for granted in our daily lives. What most of us consider the routine of daily life is a forced march through a minefield for people who stutter.

Jezer's book, however, is not just a book about one man's lifetime struggle with stuttering. In fact, it is not just a book about stuttering in the same sense that Moby Dick is not just a book about a whale.

Great writers are able to take the particular and make it universal and that is exactly what Jezer has done. Whether or not you care to be enlightened about stuttering, you should read his book because you will not only be entertained with humor and pathos, but you will have the opportunity to escape from your own world and live in someone else's world for a time.

Great writing does that and Jezer is a great writer. Reading this book will also be a special bonus for local people because Jezer lives in Brattleboro and talks of life in the town he calls "Duckburg".

I'm not going to quote any passages from the book because I don't want to spoil the pleasure you will have of reading Jezer's accounts of a life dominated by stuttering. What I will tell you is that I hope this book gets made into a movie. The main character will be an amalgam of Woody Allen, Marlon Brando, Mickey Mantle and Abbie Hoffman. He will be played by Marty Jezer.

A few weeks ago Jezer did a reading from his new book for a standing room only crowd at a local bookstore. Even though he stuttered (although less than usual) throughout the presentation, he had the crowd in the palm of his hand. No one was untouched by Jezer the performer and raconteur.

He told the crowd that the night before the reading he had a dream that he was promoting his book on the Oprah Winfrey show. At some point in the interview he became fluent and eloquent, showing no signs of stuttering. He was summarily and shamefully run off the stage as a fraud; as a fluent person posing as a stutterer for personal fame and gain.

The flavor of this dream permeates his writing. Read the book if you dare to look at the world from a new perspective.

added July 14, 1997