Every once in a while a book comes along that contains so much essential information and knowledge that I wish everybody could read it. “Life on Delay - Making Peace with a Stutter” by John Hendrickson (Knopf, 255 pages, $29). is that kind of book. The author is a successful journalist and he stutters.
Hendrickson is a senior editor for a magazine, “The Atlantic.” A few years ago, during the 2020 presidential campaign, he pitched an idea to the Atlantic, he wanted to try to get an interview with another man who stutters, the then presidential candidate Joe Biden. John had written about many things over the course of his career, music, politics, but he had never written about a subject that he knows very well, stuttering.
Biden has employed a number of strategies during his political life to address his stuttering. He has given lots of speeches and risen to the highest office in the land without allowing his stuttering to impede him. Hendrickson wanted to talk to him about that.
That isn’t a subject Joe Biden discusses often. Hendrickson was able to obtain an interview and the article he wrote got a phenomenal response from readers. Hendrickson received scores of letters and emails. The floodgates really opened up.
He responded. As he was having those exchanges he realized that what had started as a magazine article was rapidly turning into something much bigger. The result is this captivating book, “Life on Delay - Making Peace with a Stutter.”
Readers revisit his childhood. His older brother expressed some impatience toward John over his stuttering. He wasn’t always nice to John — the unspoken tension between them is a crucial part of the story.
We find out what it was like for John to go to school and how difficult it could be when classmates teased him or teachers failed to understand his situation. We learn about “the look” that he receives frequently when strangers notice he is having difficulties expressing what he wants to say. As a youth he began to self-medicate, smoking pot and drinking.
Placing orders for coffee, food or anything else can be an ordeal. Fortunately in his telling it seems like for every person who treats him in an uncaring fashion there is usually another person who is kind and understanding. The ringing of a telephone could engender trepidation, did he really want to answer that call?
Hendrickson interviewed a number of people who had responded to his magazine article. Their stories enhance the one that he is telling. Through the pages of this remarkable book we experience what it was like for the author to go to college, to interview for jobs, to become a journalist and to have to conduct interviews.
We get to the part where he meets the woman he is destined to marry. This reviewer got tingles in that section. We learn about the therapies. We understand what stuttering is and what it feels like to stutter. Read this book, you won’t soon forget it.
Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.