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March 24, 2008 | by  | in Books |
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David Mitchell: Why stammering is good for literature

As novelist David Mitchell spoke to a gigantic Embassy Theatre audience, the stammer that he has battled with throughout his life was occasionally in evidence. Occasionally Mitchell would pause for a second to search for a word which would express what he wanted to say, but which he would not stutter out.

Mitchell spent some time discussing the effect of this condition upon his literature, explaining that his stammer has been associated with different sounds during different periods of his life: at one point he would stammer over his Ss but be fine with his Ms; years later, having recovered his Ss, he would stammer his Ms. Furthermore, he stammers over different sounds in Japanese and in English.

While a stammer might seem a dire condition for someone whose life and career is built upon language, Mitchell demonstrated why it has actually been a boon for him. If he wanted to say ‘determine’ but was struggling with his Ds, he would have to search around for a synonym – say, ‘ascertain’. Years of perfecting this method has left David Mitchell with a superb vocabulary, which has in turn helped him develop a series of vastly different narrators, each of whom have their own unique way with language.

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About the Author ()

Tristan Egarr edited in 2008. He threw a chair once.

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