Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

If you read one book this week... :) Yesterday on my commute, I read "Not Even Wrong," by Paul Collins. It's a masterpiece. It's a book about "Peter the Wild Boy," a nearly-mute, feral child in 1700s England. And it's a book about the author's 3-year-old son, diagnosed with autism. I'm making it sound dreadful. But it's so well-written, so gentle, so touching... it's really quite remarkable. Read it.

I'm grabbing from some reviews on Lexis, since I don't think I'm pimping this book as well as it deserves:

"Not Even Wrong," thankfully, includes us on a sweet, sad voyage into a disorder about which we know very little. Collins' book serves as a meditation on the meaning of "normal" -- and as a reminder that specialness can come to us in miraculous ways.
[M]ore than anything else, "Not Even Wrong" is an affecting portrait of a loving, charmingly eccentric family. Were irony not dead, or at least, cryogenically on hold, it might be ironic that such a "cold" affliction as autism (characterized by, along with everything else, a flat affect when dealing with people) has inspired such a warm (and smarm-free) memoir.
In a "happy ending" that breaks the reader's heart, Morgan gets to have a human experience on "our" terms. He reels from loneliness and desolation. But it's not sad, the author insists. "It's not a tragedy, it's not a sad story, it's not a movie of the week. It's my family." Brave man. Brave book.
If you read two books this week... on Friday I read "Burning Down My Masters' House" by disgraced New York Times reporter Jayson Blair. The first section, where he talks about his meltdown, and his trip to the psychiatric hospital, and life as a quickly-spiraling-downwards New York Times reporter is very, very compelling. And then the book jumps back and does a life story leading up to the meltdown, which is much, much less interesting. I found myself starting to skim. I was hoping for more insight about the Times and what life is like there, but I didn't feel like I got it. I got a biography. The middle section, for me, fell flat. The end picked up again a bit. But it was missing a *very end* -- a "what the Times can do so people like me don't self-destruct," or "what I've learned and what's ahead," or both. We get neither. So read the first hundred pages, and then skip to the end, and read the last chapter or so. That's all worth the read. The middle hundred and fifty pages, not so much. Sorry. (And, really, read Paul Collins' book on autism before you read this. It's so good. Really.)