Turning Point: Magic Words

A distinguished literary critic recalls a lifetime of passionate reading

For me, the great turning point, even a kind of epiphany, took place between the ages of 8 and 10. I was able to go every day to the very well stocked Melrose branch of the New York Public Library, not far from where we lived in the Bronx. We spoke Yiddish at home. I had taught myself to read English when I was very small. To this day, my pronunciation is as odd as it is because I learned it through the eye rather than through the ear.

I didn't hear any English spoken until I arrived in first grade....

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