Tuesday, July 28, 2009

#98 - "Look Me in the Eye" by John Elder Robison

I'm afraid I don't have much time to write up Look Me in the Eye: My Life With Asperger's (2007) by John Elder Robison. I've got about a half hour before the coffee shop closes and I lose my internet. I've recently picked up some temp work doing some emergency document review, otherwise known as sweatshop work for lawyers. But I need the money, and it's not that bad because I know it's going to end soon. In the meantime, I have almost no free time with an internet connection.

I saw Look Me in the Eye on a recommended reading list and decided to take a look. Robison wrote a memoir of his life with Asperger's after being prompted by his younger brother, the New York Times bestselling author of Running With Scissors, Augusten Burroughs (Burroughs apparently hated his family so much that he changed his name--I will know more when I actually read Running With Scissors). Robison spent his childhood, teenage years, and young adulthood wondering what was wrong with him and feeling like a fraud. He knew he was different but wasn't diagnosed with Asperger's until he was in his forties. But despite Asperger's, a violent, alcoholic father and a mentally ill mother, Robison still built a life for himself. A whiz with electronics and sound, Robison made exploding guitars for KISS and designed electronic toys before going into business on his own.

I don't know too much about Asperger's or autism, but I thought Look Me in the Eye was an interesting look from Robison's perspective. I kind of feel the hypochondriac urge to delare myself somewhat autistic, and I could sometimes relate to Robison's point of view: I'm not big on small talk; I much prefer honesty, I cannot give someone a fake compliment, and I tend to really focus on one thing at the time. That's where the similarity ends, though, and some of the chapters that Robison probably most enjoyed writing, I wasn't as interested in. Robison keeps it brief, but I really didn't need any details about his electronics work. He could have said, I did some really hard, innovative, gadgety stuff, and I could have simply believed him.

Robison also doesn't talk too specifically about how Asperger's affects him in his day-to-day, personal life. A couple of chapters are devoted to the subject, but Robison is married twice and he barely describes how he meets them or their interactions. I guess I am usually more interested in the personal and it wasn't always there. Also, Robison comes from a very unique and messed-up family and I was left wondering more than once whether his behavior (that I would consider odd) was a result of Asperger's, his parents, the times, or spending summers in rural Georgia. Robison was in Florida, working on a KISS tour and he shot a snake right outside of his motel door--with families nearby in the pool--with his (probably illegal) handgun. And Robison was surprised when the disgruntled motel owner objected. I enjoyed reading Look Me in the Eye, but I found myself eager to pick up Running With Scissors to see if I could get more of the story of Robison's family.

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