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In Defense Of Nolan

April 10, 1988

Regarding your review of Christopher Nolan's "Under the Eye of the Clock" by Jackson Cope ( Book Review, March 6): I strongly disagree with Cope's review, which I felt to be biased, unenlightened, and grossly insensitive to the creativity of this young writer, who just also happens to be handicapped. My initial thought was that Cope must be overreacting in his effort to avoid "charity" because of the writer's severe handicaps, but upon second reading of the book and of the review, I must believe that he is simply too rigid to see the magnificence of Nolan's use of language. (I wondered how Cope would have evaluated T. S. Eliot, for example, prior to his wide acclaim.)

Ironically, the headline, "No Joyce, No Yeats, and No Dylan Thomas" (presumably not written by Cope, albeit certainly on the mark vis a vis the review) was less pejorative than initially perceived. No J, Y, or T, indeed. This is Christopher Nolan, and he is not, nor need he be, an imitator of other Irish (or Welsh, as in the case of Thomas) writers, no matter how superb.

The reviewer emphasized "self-indulgence, parental indulgence . . . " which I found to be a powerful ingredient of this young man's story. Sure beats self-pity, just for starters. But more to the point, this book is written by a young man whose severe handicaps from the very start might well have doomed him to a urine-stinking, minimal-standard nursing home, particularly in this youth-oriented/thin/tanned/affluent culture. Amazingly, Nora, his mother, chooses to spend untold hours physically holding her son's "flopping" head so that he can write, tediously, hour by hour, letter by letter, with his "unicorn pointer." Poignantly, and in truth, he writes also for the centuries of handicapped souls whose voices were silenced by their disorder and society. Nolan was blessed with a family who included him as a part of that family simply because he was . And he acknowledges and sings to highest heaven of his gratitude to those parents, that family, joyously, marvelously.

If, as Cope fantasizes, "many" college seniors could have written this book, and better, what a poetic world we may dream is unfolding. (Alas, most likely delusion, not fantasy.)

By emphasizing sentimentality, the reviewer implies that any positive response to this book by definition lacks intellectual merit. Obviously, I disagree. In fact, I pity Cope, whose handicaps of the soul and insensitivity to the glorious unlimited potential of the human mind are far more tragic than the mere physical prison in which Nolan's body has been cruelly incarcerated, but whose mind and heart personify health.

BARBARA L. SAX

PALOS VERDES

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