Tangentially Speaking

462 – John Colapinto (Journalist and Author: This is the Voice)

By February 18, 2021One Comment

John Colapinto is a journalist, author and a staff writer at The New Yorker. In 2000, he wrote the New York Times bestseller As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl, which exposed the details of the David Reimer case, a boy who had undergone a sex change in infancy—a medical experiment long heralded as a success, but which was, in fact, a failure. In 2007, The New Yorker published John’s fantastic story of his time in the Amazon with the Pirahã people and linguist Daniel Everett. John’s latest book is This is the Voice.

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Intro music: “Brightside of the Sun,” by Basin and Range,“Say Goodbye,” by Eva Cassidy.

One Comment

  • Great discussion as always. I agree that John would do well on a podcast of his own.

    I read an article about the vicissitudes he had to go through to have that ‘cursed’ novel of his, Undone, published –and ONLY in Canada– and how American publishers were too squeamish to accept it, despite the fact they recognized its literary value. It makes me think how in the United States there is this peculiar obsession with child abuse which causes people to look for red flags where there aren’t any –if Fred Rogers were alive today, he would probably be accused of being a pederast. One would be inclined to think that Americans have a high revulsion to *anything* that has to do with child abuse, and you yourself even discussed how this updated ‘satanic panic’ is the fuel behind the Q-Anon and Pizzagate conspiracy theories. But given how in American porn sites one of the top keywords happens to be ‘incest’, I can’t help wondering if this trend is not unlike what happens with men who are the most vocal and virulent homophobes –and they often turn out to be closet gays themselves…

    There is, for example, this very popular book written by a Mexican author, Xavier Velasco. The title of the novel is “Diablo Guardian” (Guardian Devil) and the protagonist, Violetta, is a fifteen-year-old girl who steals a million dollars from his parents, escapes to New York and uses her sexuality to seduce grown men and get what she wants. That novel, which was originally published in 2003, won a prestigious award, was adapted into a TV series, and launched Velasco into a very successful career; but something tells me that if he had try to publish it in the United States, the guy’s career would have completely tanked –and NO, the novel has never been translated into English, as far as I can tell.

    The other part of the conversation, dealing with how Language might influence how we think, was also very interesting. FWIW and at the risk of being politically incorrect, I too think the ‘business-like’ orientation of American culture is present in the language. I think the ‘time is money’ American mantra is one of the reasons you guys are so fond of acronyms –especially in the Military, which opens the question to whether shorting the lengths of words serves as a form of mind control (George Orwell would agree, that’s why his ‘new-speak’ had such an emphasis in killing multi-syllable words.

    I feel that can also be applied to how we write. I probably was part of the last generation of school-children who were taught rudimentary cursive, and now as an adult one of my goals is learn how to have a decent calligraphy hand-writing. I think that writing in long form calligraphy is VERY different than writing with block letters: you need to be in a calmer state, relax your hand, and think very carefully what it is you are going to commit into paper beforehand. If Shakespeare had had a typewriter, maybe he wouldn’t have enjoyed using so many iambic pentameters!

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