“The Sound and the Fury” is typically viewed as a difficult book, involving a stream-of-consciousness style and multiple perspectives to explore events the final throes of a plantation family in Mississippi just 30 – 60 years after the abolition of slavery in the United States. One of these perspectives is that of Benjy, a character usually described as an ‘idiot’ in the words of the twentieth century. He might now be termed ‘proundly intellectually disabled’. Some authors have identified traits they recognise as autistic. His correct diagnosis is not relevant to the depth that Faulkner brings to the character’s own mind and perspective in the first section of the book, written in the first person as the consciousness of an adult man who has no spoken words. Continue reading Autistic expression in “The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner (1929)→
I read and loved “The Eagle Tree” by Ned Hayes, an absorbing and intense story of a boy’s love for trees and his intense fascination with the world and natural processes that surround him – an environment that, unfortunately, everyone else seems oblivious to. Amongst this natural beauty is The Eagle Tree, possibly the last Ponderosa Pine west of the Cascade Mountains. The tree can’t be saved, but perhaps it can be climbed before it is too late.
These are ten books I have read recently that have a common theme (some looser than others) of disempowerment and psychiatric states. People who have diagnosed psychiatric illness, or are perceived ’differently’, are less likely to be believed or to be treated with respect. These books present the feeling of disempowerment from a first-person perspective, with varying degrees of success. They also present some of the negative consequences (for the person and community) of disbelieving and disrespecting the ‘Other’. Some of the characters receive inadequate medical care because their providers are too hurried or too disinterested to follow through the characters’ expressed needs. The police are not inclined to assist or believe ‘unreliable’ characters, at a cost to their own investigations.
“In a Different Key: The Story of Autism” by John Donvan and Caren Zucker is a lengthy and panoramic history of autism. I can recommend it for its sheer depth of research and quality of referencing, with the proviso that it presents a history of parents of autistic children. The degree to which autism is portrayed as a tragedy and the loss of a normal child will be unpalatable to many people who have autism themselves.
’Single-sourcing’ is a method of content management common in technical editing, and something I have used in various forms for years to manage my thoughts and notes, and (ultimately) any presentations or publications that come from them. The aspiration of single-sourcing is to have one document source which can be transformed (without further editing) into multiple output formats.
This is a brief post to note a collection of short reviews about non-fiction books about autism, relevant mostly to adolescents or adults who have a diagnosis. They include autobiography from Luke Jackson, Temple Grandin and Liane Holliday Willey; historical work from Uta Frith, Adam Feinstein and Steve Silberman; and practical intervention texts from Tony Attwood, Mohammed Ghaziuddin and Florica Stone.
This is an important book and, above all, a book of the now — some commentators have talked about the creation of a “pre-Neurotribes” and a “post-Neurotribes” public understanding of autism, which is probably correct. The amalgamation of Asperger syndrome into autism spectrum disorder within the DSM-5 in 2013 rewrote the definition of autism and Steve Silberman delineates the new landscape of the autistic spectrum and its population.
As a child, I lived and went to early school in Pakistan, and then lived there again towards the end of secondary school, from 1978 to 1980. One part of the examination in ‘O’ Level English was to write an extended essay on a topic of your own choice. My choice was the painted lorries of Pakistan, a fantastic mixture of art, craft, technology, religion and emotional yearning.
I spent the summer of 2015 reading over thirty of the many, many fiction titles that relate, in some way, to autism. My personal reviews of individual titles will follow in a sorted gallery, where I can continually add and update the collection. Each review includes a link to a longer review in a newspaper or blog and a link to the author’s site, sorted by author surname. These are widely varied titles, from children’s to adults’ fiction, from romance to vampires, and from thrillers to science fiction. Most of these books state or strongly imply that a central character has an autism spectrum diagnosis, or it has been stated in publicity material or related films. The autistic character is not always the lead, and is not always painted positively – both negative and positive characters and events can be equally meaningful representations of most people’s real lives.
What do people write about when they are writing about “autism”?
Autism is the disease of our age. Susan Sontag introduced “Illness as Metaphor” in 1978, identifying tuberculosis as the disease of the 19th century and cancer as the disease of her own time. HIV and AIDS are the disease of the decade afterwards. Autism is a metaphor for current global concerns – all our fears of Pollution, Viral pandemics, Political aggression, Terrorism, Internet addiction and Natural disasters are encapsulated in ‘autism’ as a metaphor.