Jul 17

Stuttering: In “Out With It” Katherine Preston Finds Her Voice

If you haven’t seen the acclaimed 2010 movie The King’s Speech, the main question is whether Colin Firth‘s character, King George VI, can overcome his stammering or stuttering (the words are often used synonymously) with the aid of speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).

After the movie came out a few years ago, Katherine Preston wrote in Salon about the ways in which both the traumatic origins of stuttering and its cure were misrepresented. Cure? There is none, she reports, nor is causation yet known. Nonetheless, she liked a key part of the film’s essence:

What ultimately redeems ‘The King’s Speech,’ however, is the way it uses stuttering as a metaphor for human struggle. In the film, stuttering is not really about speech at all. It comes down to our desire to be loved and accepted as perfectly imperfect. It is about the pain of being out of control of one’s body in the presence of others. The relationship that emerges between the king and Lionel Logue depicts the need to connect and the courage that it takes to do so through a disabling condition. In the final scene of ‘The King’s Speech’ the stutter has not disappeared, but the king has learned to find grace and strength from within his unique voice. And that’s a lesson that all people — including stutterers — can take to heart.

Preston knows what’s she’s talking about. She’s tried the therapies herself. Her new book Out With It: How Stuttering Helped Me Find My Voice tells her story and those of others. “We should all shine a light on our imperfections. We should live with courage, on the edge of uncertainty,” Preston states.

Out with It has been reviewed by at least a couple organizations that provide support to stutterers. (In Britain, the word of choice is stammering, in the U.S. stuttering.)

Speaking Out, the quarterly publication of the British Stammering Association: “A refreshingly honest memoir….Out With It is a unique book, and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who stammers, knows someone who stammers, or simply wants to know more about this often misunderstood condition. It made me laugh out loud, gave me deep, positive revelations about the stammering experience, and simply made me appreciate the journey a little bit more.”

“Letting Go,” quarterly newsletter of the National Stuttering Association (U.S.): “Out With It is the story of Katherine’s journey to find her voice, as well as a comprehensive profile of a curious condition, going far beyond the mostly false perceptions that movies and television have provided. A heartwarming memoir and a journalistic feat, Out With It is more than a chronicle of one of the most prevalent speech problems in the world; it’s a story about understanding yourself, and learning to embrace the voice within.”

Jan 05

“Bridget Jones’s Diary” and New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are the cornerstone of both the 1996 novel Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding and its screenplay adaptation of 2001. The heroine (played by Renee Zellweger in the film) starts off her year with good intentions toward making significant life changes–and a diary to keep track of it all.

The book, which Fielding acknowledges is based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, “…was an instant success, and Bridget became a ‘cultural icon,’ the quintessential ’90s woman trying to balance a career and a love life while contending with ideas about how a modern woman should look and behave” (Dallas News).

Primed by the novel, many flocked to see the movie when it came out several years later. Stephen Holden (New York Times) elaborates further on Bridget Jones’s Diary: “Bridget Jones, in case you didn’t know, is a 32-year-old bachelorette who works in a London publishing house and frets with sad amusement about her increasingly iffy prospects for finding a long-term relationship. Summoning up her shaky willpower, she decides to adopt the usual self-improvement regimen to make herself more desirable. She will lose 20 pounds, cut down on alcohol, cigarettes and sweets, and land the boat of her dreams. Her diary entries are prefaced with meticulous records of her progress (and lack thereof) in achieving her stringent numerical goals.”

One of Bridget’s best features? States Holden: “…(E)ven when downhearted, she maintains a rueful sense of humor.”

Below is the film’s trailer:

In the end, although Bridget feels compelled to admit that she hasn’t made the changes she’d wanted and that her diary is “foolish,” there is a significant measure of progress–albeit against her own inclinations–in one specific area. She’s managed to stumble into a decent relationship.

And it’s this special man, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), who says the key words to Bridget that might make all those earnest resolutions seem not so important after all: “…I like you very much. Just as you are.”