Who knew big words and knew how to use them? Was he a charmer or an insufferable smart aleck—or maybe both? Mark Oppenheimer was just such a boy, his talent for language a curse as much as a blessing. Unlike math or music prodigies, he had no way to showcase his unique skill, except to speak like a miniature adult—a trick some found impressive but others found irritating. Frustrated and isolated, Oppenheimer used his powers for ill—he became a wisenheimer—pushing his peers and teachers away, acting out with prank phone calls, and worse. But when he got to high school, Oppenheimer discovered an outlet for his loquaciousness: the debate team.
This smart, funny memoir not only reveals a strange, compelling subculture, it offers a broader discussion of the splendor and power (including the healing power) of language and of the social and developmental hazards of being a gifted child. Oppenheimer’s journey from loneliness to fulfillment affords a fascinating inside look at the extraordinary subculture of world-class high-school debate and at the power of language to change one’s life.