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Web of Stories offers you the chance to listen to some of the greatest people of our time telling their life stories.
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General de Gaulle

François Jacob


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School is a wonderful invention

Philip Roth - Writer

The school was just a three minute or five minute walk down the street, at the end of our street.  It was a brand new school, and I just took to school: it just seemed to be the most wonderful invention, you know.

I remember being particularly intrigued — I must have been first grade — by the frieze, the alphabet frieze that ran around the top of the blackboards. The capital A, the small a, the capital B, the small b, and I was riveted by it, really, and so I learned to read and write.  And I was a smart little fellow, and so I skipped grades. I don't know if they still have that in American schools, but if you were at the top of your class they moved you ahead. And so I skipped once in the fourth grade, and I skipped once in the eighth grade.

There it is. I think the teachers were probably pretty good for that era, I don't remember much from then — I learnt to read. And in about fourth grade I discovered the library; I don't mean the school library, I don't even think there was a school library, but the local branch library of the big Newark Public Library. Now, we didn't have any books in my house. There were… I can think of four books... four books that were in the house while I was in grade school, and I know the four books because I read them. There they were, and I read them. They were all books that had been given to my mother or father — I think my father – when my father had been in the hospital. He had a serious illness in the early 1940s and people had brought him some books to read. My father was a newspaper reader, he wasn't a book reader, so home these books came. They were Sir Walter Scott — just what my father needed — Kenilworth, Ivanhoe, and another one whose name I can't remember. Another book was by William L Shirer, it was called Berlin Diary. I said I could remember the four, but I suppose I can't. But I read them; I didn't know what I was reading.

Oliver Sacks - Scientist
Oliver Sacks - Scientist
Freeman Dyson - Scientist
Murray Gell-Mann - Scientist
Murray Gell-Mann - Scientist
Murray Gell-Mann - Scientist