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7/7/09

William James Sidis: Myths and Inaccuracies

I found a review of Amy Wallace's The Prodigy, about William James Sidis. I have a post about Sidis here. The reviewer is sympathetic to Sidis in that he claims too many myths have been put forth about the man. According to him, they largely stem from Wallace's book, which has many inaccuracies. As for my post on Wallace, he lists it among the many myth-promoting articles that can be found on the web. (I don't believe he read the article, although I grant his attention was caught by my title, which is hyped. The article, by Jim Morton, is about Sidis' collection of street-car transfers)

I like opinions that run contrary to conventional wisdom as we tend to absorb it unthinkingly and, I must confess, I know little about Sidis. The reviewer's chief point is the damage done to Sidis' reputation by Wallace's book. Here are excerpts:

"It is more than a little absurd that a frenzy of myths have been created about a man that was little known while alive, and even less known today. Relative to William Sidis’ life, for myself the final answer to all questions will forever remain 'I don’t know.' Never in my life have I researched a topic so satiated with exaggerations, fantasies, and outright lies as what is found in the William Sidis story."

"It is unfortunate that the errors within The Prodigy have become the primary source for the majority of current beliefs about William Sidis. Hundreds, if not thousands of authors, chose to not research beyond the reading of The Prodigy, and while holding up The Prodigy as if an inerrant holy book without flaw, the authors accepted the words within The Prodigy unchallenged." More

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