I am addicted to a new subgenre of memoir, namely memoirs by grown men who were diagnosed with some form of Asperger’s syndrome as adults. The latest is Parallel Play: Growing up with Undiagnosed Asperger’s , by Tim Page, who was a Pulitzer Prize winning music critic at the Washington Post . This is a beautiful book with heartbreaking images from a misunderstood childhood. There is no particular “cure” for Asperger’s, nor do the men seek it. Instead they choose to remain the slightly unreliable narrators of their own emotional state. In Page’s memoir, this passage slayed me.
From early childhood, my memory was so acute and my wit so bleak that I was described as a genius by my parents, by neighbors and even, on occasion, by the same teachers who handed me failing marks. I wrapped myself in this mantle, of course, as a poetic justification for behavior that might otherwise have been judged unhinged and I did my best to believe in it. But the explanation made no sense. A genius at what? Were other geniuses so oblivious that they needed mnemonic devices to tell right from left, and idly wet their pants into adolescence?
Another recent memoir is Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World , by Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution fame. It sounds like an economics manifesto but it’s not. One of Cowen’s readers suggested he might have Asperger’s. Cowen embraced the diagnosis and, in this book, argues that it’s an advantage.