“It’s so easy as a parent to project your own hopes and ambitions on your child, even when you think you’re not. Getting beyond that to see your kid as a person independent of you is the goal.”
Atlantic Monthly literary editor Ann Hulbert joins the show to talk about her new book, Off the Charts: The Hidden Lives and Lessons of American Child Prodigies (Knopf). We get into the history of child prodigies and what we can learn from the rest of their lives, how the prodigy experience can be a version of normal childhood writ large, and how to deal with the “race to nowhere” aspects of our high achievement culture. We also talk about Ann’s career as a literary editor (from The New Republic to Slate to The Atlantic), the advantages of living outside the New York publishing ecosystem, the challenges of assigning books for review, the perils of monomania, her father’s belief that children are “guests in the house”, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy Off the Charts!
“Pursuing something without the expectation of being really good at it was one of the pleasures of my childhood.”
About our Guest
Ann Hulbert is the author of Raising America: Experts, Parents, and a Century of Advice About Children, The Interior Castle: The Art and Life of Jean Stafford, and Off the Charts: The Hidden Lives and Lessons of American Child Prodigies. Her articles and reviews have appeared in many publications, including The New York Times Book Review, The New York Review of Books, and The Atlantic, where she is the literary editor. She is a graduate of Harvard and spent a year at Cambridge University. She lives with her husband, Stephen Sestanovich, in Washington D.C.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Knopf offices in NYC on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Ms. Hulbert by Nina Subin, so it’s not on my instagram.