Entering a school as the first student with a serious disability (cerebral palsy) after starting his education in a "special" school, Christopher Nolan had to develop careful and clever strategies for developing friendships, allowing others their curiosity, and finding ways to use his considerable gifts against the odds of both the disease and the prejudice it bred.  One of his strategies is the inventive, cryptic, poetic, Joycean idiom in which he writes his story.  He did, in fact, succeed in a school where he was accepted as a kind of experiment, in an area of Ireland not known for its progressive attitudes.  In this narrative he moves back and forth between inner life, family life, and life at school, allowing readers to get to know him as a deeply reflective, adventurously social, and courageous human being, living with his debilitating condition with a degree of consciousness that took full account of the losses as well as finding avenues of expression that allowed him, intellectually, at least, full range of motion.  The narrative takes us through his school years where he distinguished himself as a poet and also as a human being for whom life with a disability shaped an extraordinary dexterity with language.


The book is not an easy read at first, any more than Joyce’s works are—so much is wordplay, poetic experiment, circuitous syntax designed to show off the possibilities of language itself.  One acclimates, however, and finds that Nolan’s writing alternates between the more arcane paragraphs and highly lucid, moving portraits of himself and those among whom he found both friends and mirrors in which to understand the terms of his own life.  He was justly honored in Ireland for his precocious work, and this particular work testifies strongly to the way disability can concentrate a person’s powers in an available form of expression, and perhaps heighten them.  It’s a story written with spirit and sprightliness by a man with a complex mind and a hard-won emotional maturity even at a very young age.


St. Martin's Press

Place Published

New York



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