This post is in the Literature category

Dear Reader

I’ve always loved books, especially books about things.  My best friends as a child were books about the earth, animals, biology, history, machines and aircraft.  Encyclopaedias, dictionaries and thesauri.  Books of sayings and cliches.  I had a huge store of what people around me called general knowledge or rather less flatteringly useless knowledge.  This knowledge was kept in images in the back of my brain, images of pages of text.  When triggered in a conversation, usually someone else’s conversation, these images would spring to the forefront and I could read them, word for word, “off the back of my eyes”.  While this eidetic memory is not uncommon in children in the general community, it usually fades with adolescence. Many autistic and Asperger adults however, retain it  (Attwood, 2008, p. 244; Kehrer, 1992; Wing, 1981) and it is another example of the somewhat childlike world of autism and other developmental disorders.

The ability to recall very large amounts of data through this visual memory has mostly left me, except I can still “bring up” from my long term memory some of those texts from my pre-teen years.  These days I recall the spirit of the text rather than the letter. There is usually an associated image of the front of the book and of the layout of the page – so I can find it again. I found a similar account of this image of page layout on a blog page at Wrong (LabPet, 2007).1  One of the down-sides of computers and the internet is that much of the reading I have been doing is PDF files of journals – and they all look the same on the outside!

As an adolescent I discovered fiction, but looking back I have best enjoyed the tales of the displaced, misplaced and downright alien – people struggling to make sense of the world they find themselves in.  Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld (Farmer, 1978) and Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot were particular favourites, but the pattern is still there.  I also become very engrossed in astrology – probably not uncommon for an 80’s teenager – and body language, particularly Alan Pease’s illustrated books  (Pease, 1981).  In hindsight I realise that I was trying to find my way in a confusing world, to understand the unspoken and to predict how people would behave.

I just looked at the pile of books beside my bed.  A thesaurus, a rhyming dictionary, Native Instruments Reaktor Core Modules Guide, a book of cliches and common metaphors, A Briefer History of Time (Hawking & Mlodinow, 2008), and Dr Karl Kruszelnicki’s delightful Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Science (Kruszelnicki, 2009) – I guess some things don’t change.

So I have enjoyed the reading aspect of this research.  The review of literature  has been a continuous exploratory process, with a scope and depth way beyond my most pessimistic (in terms of sheer volume) and optimistic (in terms of fascinating data) expectations.  In short, at the beginning of the research I believed, as I expect most research students do, that my field was so new, so narrow and unexplored, that the literature had little to offer.  But I was wrong, and the sheer size of my Reference List bears this out!

  1. is an online resource and discussion centre for Asperger’s and Autism maintained and run by people on the spectrum. []

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