Category Archives: Autism/Asperger Syndrome

See you again, Snape

What a difference three days make. On Monday when I heard that a famous 69-year-old man had died, I went ‘Oh.’ On Thursday when I heard that another famous 69-year-old man had died, equally prematurely, I went ‘Oh no!’

There is no knowing in advance how you’ll react, but yesterday’s news that Alan Rickman has died affected me much more than I would have thought likely. I felt as if I’d met him not long ago, and in a way, I had. It’s just over a week since we watched A Little Chaos, which to my mind was only truly enjoyable thanks to Alan Rickman as the tired King hiding in a garden, ‘forgetting’ he likes pears.

And it was only another couple of weeks before, that we watched Love Actually, to get in the mood for Christmas. Which we did, even though Alan’s character behaves rather stupidly. Hopefully he will learn to be more like Hugh Grant.

More recently than either of these films I paused to look at a spread of photos in (I think) the Guardian, where Alan for some obscure reason wasn’t listed, and I went over the picture credits several times to work out why he was there, and why there was no mention of him.

Galaxy Quest! How can you not adore that crazy film? As a Mr Spock fan, I just loved Alan’s Spock-type character. In fact, I feel the urge to watch it again right now. And the less well known Snow Cake, about an autistic woman, where Alan was very much the right man for the part. Marvin. I always loved Marvin.

You might ask yourselves why I am putting Alan Rickman on Bookwitch, when he was an actor and I’m sitting here listing film titles. The thing is, to me he embodied a couple of important books, more than anything else he did (and I’m no expert; having seen less of his work than many). Before his Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, I had never really thought about the man. Not being the main male character, he just slipped me by in the novel. But on the screen, he made the whole television adaptation what it was. I have already forgotten most of it, apart from his Colonel.

But for me as a witch, it’s Alan’s Snape that will stay the longest in my memory. He was the perfect Snape; a mix of bad while ‘almost’ nice. The thing is, it was only a few days ago that I chatted to Daughter about the Harry Potter actors, and how I had had this dreadful premonition that not all of them would survive the whole seven books/films. The two that flitted before my eyes at the time were Richard Harris and Maggie Smith, and we know how that went. I just didn’t think that any of ‘the young ones’ were at risk.

Alan seems to have been a nice, decent man as well as a terrific actor, and that’s always attractive. There is something good about a man with a conscience and sensible opinions; someone who will do and say what’s necessary at times. Also, I know nothing about his personal life or his family, and that’s how it should be. My condolences to them.

Harriet the Spy

I was a bit disappointed by Harriet the Spy. Louise Fitzhugh’s 1964 novel had been recommended to me, and although I didn’t exactly rush to read it, I fully expected it to be something it wasn’t.

To begin with I quite liked it, but grew to actively dislike Harriet herself. I’m unsure as to whether she’s not meant to be likeable, or if she’s more of a Pippi Longstocking girl that the reader is meant to admire because she’s so different. I believe Harriet the Spy was suggested as an aspie book, and it is, I suppose. Harriet’s problems in relating to her school friends suggests a lack of theory of mind. (With my aspie hat on, I also noticed a couple of ‘mistakes,’ like Harriet going to school on a Sunday.)

Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy

It’s a rather charming period piece, set in New York over fifty years ago. It’s the kind of New York it’d be nice to be able to see for yourself, and almost impossible to imagine today.

You have to admire [some of] Harriet’s observational skills. She creeps round the neighbourhood collecting data on people in her notebook, to which she is permanently attached. She sees all these things, but she fails to understand what they mean, what makes people tick. Harriet also fails to allow others to be different. It’s all about her and her ways.

Her nanny is sacked, and everything goes wrong. Her teachers ‘don’t understand her’ and her friends and non-friends alike turn on her. In a way, what this really is is a book by Rebecca Stead, turned on its head. I.e. it’s the plot as seen by the ‘bad’ child, rather than the usual point of view.

And then, everything is ‘fine’ again, which is fine by me, but I didn’t admire the ways it was made fine.

(I have used a book cover image different to the one on my copy, because among other things I dislike is ‘the film/television’ book cover. Especially when it seems to bear little relation to the story.)

Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy

How to Fly with Broken Wings

‘Jump!’ Now, that’s a horrible thing to tell, or force, someone else to do. But we know it happens, and it happens a lot in Jane Elson’s book How to Fly with Broken Wings. It’s worth considering why someone would say it, though. Things are never totally straightforward.

Jane Elson, How to Fly with Broken Wings

Friendship is a difficult concept. Not only can making friends be rather hard, but even to understand what a friend is, could be close to impossible. Twelve-year-old Willem Edward Smith has Asperger Syndrome. His maths teacher gives him homework, which is to make two new friends; real friends, rather than a relative or a friendly shopkeeper.

So poor Willem tries to make friends, and ends up with Sasha from school, who is the (girl)friend of Willem’s bully, Finn. And he befriends Finn. Maybe.

What with the friendship issues, and gang warfare on the estate where he lives with his gran, and rioting, things are never going to be easy for Willem. And this story is not a happy ever after story. There is a lot of bad stuff, mixed in with the good.

Sasha and Finn are not going to change completely. Willem will probably always display aspie traits and be easily led. Staff at his school seem to be particularly stupid.

But there is Archie, the elderly man who moves in, and whose mission it is to change the estate. There are the memories of Archie’s parents, especially his mother, who flew planes in the war. There is a Spitfire, a living, breathing Spitfire, so to speak.

If it doesn’t kill them, then maybe Archie and the dreams of flying can help this troubled estate. Expect to cry, though.

Triggers

Whenever I think of the run-up to my interview with Debi Gliori (almost six years ago!) I feel ashamed. Ashamed, because she wanted to feed Son and me, and I gave her a very long list of what not to give me. In a way it doesn’t matter. As I made clear last week, I can always not eat the chocolate dessert, but it’s easier not to in a restaurant where I won’t worry too much about anyone’s hurt feelings. But I know that if I’ve slaved over a hot stove to cook something for a visitor, and it turns out to be the one exact thing they simply can’t eat, we’d both have been happier if there’d been a list. Even a long list.

Do not feed Bookwitch

(And in the end Debi went for simple and utterly delicious and I can recommend her kitchen to anyone. Which she might not thank me for.)

But you’d think that when I cook my own dinner I’d know what to do. Or not to do. And I do, but sometimes I have my moments. On Monday I could either have put no onion in the soup, or used a little, frozen, onion. I put lots of fresh onion in instead and didn’t cook it enough, and as a result you are now not reading about James Oswald’s visit to the Stirling branch of Waterstones.

C’est la vie. Sleeping off migraines is all right, too. Apart from my date with James I have the time, so it could have been worse. Perhaps I’ll write myself a list to look at in the kitchen, before I start telling others what to do.

I’m reminded by what Asperger guru Tony Attwood told the audience at a long ago conference I attended. Some people have found they get a bit more ‘normal’ by following a fairly strict diet. Or less ‘aspie.’ Tony was having a meal out with aspie child author Luke Jackson and his mother. Luke followed this diet, so his mother asked for various things to be taken into account when ordering his food.

Tony said that after a while they became aware that Luke was behaving unexpectedly badly. They asked the waitress if any of the things they’d mentioned might have ended up in Luke’s meal anyway. It had.

‘We didn’t think you’d notice,’ she said.

Never Odd or Even

Eliot in Never Odd or Even probably has Asperger Syndrome. And I reckon this book will appeal to children with similar fondness for prime numbers and palindromes and stuff like that. It even appealed to me, although I had feared it might not, what with all the numbers and things to begin with.

As with other aspie books, it’s about being bullied at school and about solving a crime. The two are obviously connected.

John Townsend, Never Odd or Even

We never learn all that much about the main character, who has to be called Eliot or his name wouldn’t fit in with the palindromes and all the rest. I’m thinking John Townsend likes stuff like that too.

I didn’t set out to learn all those prime numbers, nor to decipher the anagrams, but was happy to let Eliot guide me. But I have to mention that it’s difficult to have Friday the 12th of July any time soon after a Friday the 13th. I couldn’t help checking this. And if the word for fear of Friday the 13th really is Paraskevidekatriaphobia, it will never be able to score you 44 or more in Scrabble, because the word is too long. (I might also have some doubts about the length of Summer term at Eliot’s school…)

Sorry.

It’s a short and entertaining book about a boy with special interests and his interactions with the villain of the piece, Victor. Victor is vile. Evil.

I was a little surprised by the crime, as well as its solution. I won’t say more.

The Case of the Exploding Loo

Do I strike you as a witch who’d be offended by exploding portaloos, or mentions of poo?

No? Thank you. Unless, of course, the exploding loo means one is caught short.

Rachel Hamilton, The Case of the Exploding Loo

Anyway, a book that is both humorous and has a Faraday’s cage as part of the plot, can not only not be bad, but must of necessity be pretty good. The Case of the Exploding Loo by Rachel Hamilton (she’s the one who worried about offending my sensitivities) is silly, but fun.

Noelle’s scientist dad has disappeared in an explosion in a portaloo. The police reckon he is dead, as they could only find a pair of smoking shoes, but his daughter is set on solving the puzzle and starts an investigation. She phones the police so often that they want to scream when they hear her voice.

But someone has to find her dad, and it clearly won’t be the stupid police. Sort of aided by her older sister Holly, Noelle uses her very high IQ to come up with ideas. Their mum has gone bananas, and life in the Hawkins household gets stranger every day.

She is perhaps not so skilled socially as Holly, but Noelle still finds lots of clues missed by the police. And with the help of a portaloo fan, some meccano and an old police retainer, they discover the weirdest things.

Read, if you want to find out. Might help if you are young of mind, like I am. Poo.

The Case of the Bogus Detective

Imagine the joy of finding that the trilogy you liked so much didn’t, in fact, end with the third book. There is a fourth! The last one, from what I’ve heard, but very nice all the same. (And I don’t think we should rule out more from the way things were left…)

Caroline Lawrence, The Case of the Bogus Detective

Caroline Lawrence’s very likeable aspie detective PK Pinkerton is back, in The Case of the Bogus Detective. We now know what sex Pinky is, but that only adds to the fun. PK’s long lost dad, the famous Pinkerton detective turns up, and together they set out to solve the robberies on stage coaches carrying valuables. Pinkerton Sr wants PK to dress as a girl, and goes so far as to teach Pinky how to act like one, how to walk, and so on. He doesn’t appear to have much dress sense however, which is so like a man.

Jace seems to have let PK down and the relationship with Ping sours somewhat, and Mark Twain, as he now calls himself, sets off for San Francisco. Pinky isn’t far behind, on the trail of the stage coach robbers.

So this time we have a true western adventure on a stage coach, followed by more adventures in San Francisco. We’ve heard so much about the city, and now PK can see what it’s like, as well as solve a mystery. Things are tied up most satisfactorily.

I have loved these westerns with a difference, and would happily read more. And I’ll have my own Sioux outfit now, thank you. I’ve always wanted one.