Title: Not Even Wrong
Author: Paul Collins
Genre: Memoir/ Psychology
Length: 245 pages
I’ve journaled nearly twenty pages of commentary on this book. Now, having finished it, I’m not sure what I should share and what should be kept to myself.
Collins does a spectacular job sharing memoir with known history, diving into tales from the world and mixing it with tales from his personal world. The first few chapters are dedicated to his pursuit of Peter the Wild Boy and an existing desire to write a biography on the mysterious boy who was ‘rescued’ by King George. (Reference to the boy made in Notes and Queries, of course.) Collins later discovers his son is autistic.
The entire book is an ode to his son and his autism. An ode to their life, their relationship, the world of Autists.
Therefore a lot of information is shared regarding what that means. A lot of reflection on the gene pool it takes to cook up such a neurological anomaly that is an essential part of humanity as a whole. The trifecta being science, art, and math.
Collins writes on page 96:
Apparently we have been walking around with the genetic equivalent of a KICK ME sign:
my father: mechanical engineer
jennifer’s father: musician, math major
my brother: phd in computing
At this point, I remember taking my own personal inventory. My father is a civil engineer, not only that he was a musician and painter, and suffers from what I think is undiagnosed and extremely mild tourettes (also discussed in Collins’ book). My immediate cousins and family members on that side of the family are musicians and scientists. Some work in labs, some in an engineering field. Although I’ve been an English and History girl my whole life, much to my father’s chagrin, I was raised by and around extremely scientific minds. I think I get all the feelings and other eccentricities from my mother’s side. But in a parallel universe, had I somehow procreated with people I had dated in college rather than the love of my life whom I married – musicians, computer geeks, Synesthesiacs (also discussed in Collins’ book) – I think I was very close to wearing that KICK ME sign as well.
Looking at the world through the eyes of Collins’ research, I think many people have been close to wearing that sign. I think everyone should read through this book and see just how close. It’s enlightening. It’s scary. It’s beautiful.
There are so many amazing people through out history who have changed the face of humanity – the way we work – integral parts of society and science… and they were very likely autistic. Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Glenn Gould, Andy Warhol, Paul Erdos. These people are essential to who we are as a species today. These people have made our world more beautiful, even though they are very likely to be the same people described on page 109: “Imagine if you tried to pretend to understand people, but didn’t really. So you rehearse it all in your head: taking notes, analyzing every social action, trying to connect it all together.” I don’t have to imagine. I may not be a genius like Albert Einstein, I may not be as clever as Glenn Gould, and I’m certainly not nearly as eccentric as Andy Warhol – but I know all about rehearsing, taking notes, analyzing, and still feeling quite out of the loop. A little bit of understanding from the rest of the world goes a long way in my book – even though I’m not so good at understanding the rest of the world, I’m trying to be better about it.
“You know, it used to be that when I saw someone acting or talking strangely, or just being odd on the bus, I’d think to myself: What’s his problem? I still have that reaction. But now I stop, pause, and have a second thought: No, really, what is that man’s problem? There is a decades-long chain of events that created the person who are seeing.” – pg. 213
Paul Collins brings a little bit of humanity and the importance of curiosity and empathy into ALL his work. For that I adore him, and will always adore him, forever.
On that note, I want to check out the artwork of his wife. I love art. I love paintings. I am the CMO of an art company called Aoristos and I’m curious to see the style of art the spouse of my favorite author paints. If anyone knows and can provide reliable links – please do.