Since the holiday season is a time of year that we like to think of ourselves as being renewed in spirit as well as in body, and our generosity reaches its yearly peak, I should like to mention a book that I think you'd find extremely rewarding to read -- in fact, I should like to make you aware of a small part of the literature that is available on the same subject -- autism. The book that I'd like to bring to your attention is a novel by British writer Mark Haddon, called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a marvelous book that gives us a detailed look at the inner workings and the inner logic of a 15-year-old boy who is autistic. Exploring the inner logic of this child is particularly to the point, because we are led to see that the chain of cause and effect that the teenager follows may be different from ours, but its logic is as inexorable as our own personal logic. The desire to communicate and not to communicate on the part of the teenager may seem stranger to us than our own parameters about communicating and not communicating, and yet they are clearly identical (if you remember the movie "The Rainman", Dustin Hoffman gives a very compelling performance of a person with autism -- the book simply is able to explain more of the inner workings of the teenager's mind). The teenager in the book is also, like Hoffman's character in the movie, what at one time was called an "idiot savant" -- the word "idiot" is the Greek word that means "belonging to one's self"; "savant" is a French word that could be translated as "a wise man"; the effect is together is that although one may have a serious communications/ perceptual/cognitive problems and yet be exceedingly brilliant in one or more areas. The teenager is a mathematical genius, and is planning to go to university to study. The book devolves around finding the person who killed the neighbors dog -- discovery of the dog's corpse begins the book. In the course of his sleuthing the teenager and makes many discoveries, including, finally, the dog's killer. But is the mechanics of the teenager's mind that are the real focus of the book, and they are what makes the reading of the book so worth the while. Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is a woman whom you ought to meet. She is a gifted animal scientist and she is autistic. She has a raft of books to her credit including: Emergence: Labeled Autistic, Livestock Handling and Transport, and Thinking in Pictures: and Other Reports from My Life with Autism. She painstakingly describes how she has made her way through life, giving us a very complete picture of how a person with autism functions. In a world that presently is filled with educational diagnoses that some people construe as excuses for laziness, it is good to have information both indirectly in the novel and directly through Temple Grandin's books. In this case, knowledge gives us hope to understand people with educational diagnoses, and to enfold them into our general population as a yeast that bubbles and percolates and raises the body politic to new heights. Briefly Noted
Don't forget FirstNight-Burlington is nearly upon us with all of it's a wonderful family-centered entertainment in the early part of the day and evening, with fireworks at 7 p.m. for families with small children and again at midnight. It's a brilliantly organized extravaganza presented for all of us in a modest price -- and it's drug- and alcohol- free.