Saturday, February 20, 2010


Thursday evening, Christopher, Samantha, and I braved the falling snow to head down to Macky Auditorium at CU to hear a dazzling performance by pianist Haochen Zhang, last year's Van Cliburn Gold Medalist. The program began with a marvelously fluid and delicate performance of Mozart's Sonata in C Major (no, not THAT one - but K. 330), and built through a gorgeous playing of Chopin's Ballade No. 4 in F Minor to the stunning finale of Stravinsky's Petrushka.

Zhang, who won the medal just four days after his nineteenth birthday, made his recital debut at age five, performing all fifteen Bach two-part inventions, plus sonatas by Mozart and Haydn; a year later, at the tender age of six, he played a Mozart piano concerto with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.

This made me wonder why - thank goodness! - there are no similar stories about writing prodigies. I can't think of a single one. There was that little girl poet, Hilda Conkling, whose poems I read in various anthologies when I was a little girl myself. Hilda wrote the majority of her poems between the ages of four and ten; I see that in my Time for Poetry book, edited by May Hill Arbuthnot (published in 1951), Hilda has no fewer than 11 poems included. The one called "Fairies" goes:

I cannot see fairies.
I dream them.
There is no fairy can hide from me;
I keep on dreaming till I find him:
There you are, Primrose! I can see you, Black Wing!

Okay, Hilda Conkling was impressive. But who else? What novelists, what playwrights, wrote anything worth publishing before their teen years? Maybe it's because you really do need a certain kind of wisdom to write something revelatory of the human condition. Aristotle famously remarked that the young are not suitable as students of ethics. Maybe they are not suitable as novelists, either. They can dash off a performance of a piano concerto (well, some very few of them can!), but fiction seems better left to those of us of riper years.

No comments:

Post a Comment