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Parallel Play: Growing Up with Undiagnosed Asperger's Hardcover – September 8, 2009
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Amazon Exclusive: John Elder Robison Reviews Parallel Play
John Elder Robison is a writer, speaker, and advocate. He is the author of Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s. Read Robinson's exclusive Amazon guest review of Parallel Play:
The first time I saw Tim Page, I felt a sense of familiarity. He was obviously smart but shy, socially awkward, with a different cadence to his voice. There was an undefined, instinctive "something" that told me Tim was a fellow Aspergian. I feel different and excluded from much human company, but people like Tim are an exception. They are my people. They are me.
Tim says he’s lived life as an outsider, and that’s exactly how I feel too. As a result, even though I’ve grown up to find commercial success, happiness often eludes me. Within minutes of meeting Tim, it was clear he felt the same. Neurotypical people try to welcome us into their world, but Asperger’s blinds us to the olive branches of friendship they proffer. They even shake the leaves in front of our faces, but we just gaze, impassive and oblivious. People assume we’ve rejected them, but in truth we want their friendship and acceptance with every fiber of our being. That’s the heartbreak of it.
Tim’s story illustrates that reality with clear and moving prose. Even when he’s been with people, much of his life has been spent alone. He was always smart, but like me, I wonder what it’s been for. His book shows that genius has its benefits but it’s not a formula for happiness or even general life success. You’ll wonder if his extraordinary abilities are a cause or a result of his isolation. Or are they just more facets of a unique mind?
Anyone with an interest in Asperger’s and the complexity of the human mind will be fascinated by Parallel Play. It will leave you with much to think about.--John Elder Robison
(Photo © Rick Colson)
"Simply lovely… Page does not glorify or mythologize his condition, nor does he render a portrait of a soul victimized by circumstance. The view from this window is merely one of the human condition, painted in emotions known to us all, yet rarely so finely drawn."
—The Los Angeles Times
"An improbably lovely memoir… In fascinatingly precise detail and often to pricelessly funny effect, [Page] describes ways in which his efforts to feign normalcy have backfired."
—The New York Times
"The wordsmithing is nimble and lyrical, well-tuned by a writer with a musician's ear."
—The Washington Post Book World
"Fascinating... In this tender but unsparing look back, Page...[leaves] readers to ponder how a condition that bedevils and isolates can also yield magicianly talent, originality, and grit."
—O, The Oprah Magazine
—People magazine's "Great Reads"
"Page expertly fuses information about Asperger's with personal (at times embarrassing) anecdotes - and makes the result feel like Holden Caulfield with a touch of Stephen Daedalus."
"Parallel Play tells of Tim's journey from lonely boy genius to Pulitzer-winning writer. One thing becomes clear: Tim's sharp and incisive insights into music and the arts were made possible by Asperger's syndrome, the very condition some see as a disability. I guarantee you'll be inspired, amused, occasionally saddened and deeply touched by his story."
—John Elder Robison, author of Look Me in the Eye
"A lucid, sweetly sentimental testament to growing up different."
"Tim Page's witty, intellectually stimulating memoir almost made me wish I had Asperger's syndrome."
"Tim Page has written an autobiography that is remarkable in terms of eloquently describing the life of someone who has Asperger's syndrome. Being an accomplished and celebrated writer, his vivid use of language captivates the reader. Those who have Asperger's syndrome, and their family members, will identify with Tim's experiences; professionals will appreciate the descriptions of thoughts and perceptions, enabling them to achieve a greater understanding of the syndrome. The casual reader will enjoy the work of a master craftsman."
"Parallel Play is a beautifully written account of Asperger's syndrome, a riveting portrayal of what it is like to live in a psychological world that few understand. Tim Page has made this world real, poignant, and more comprehensible. He has written a fascinating and important book."
—Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., author of An Unquiet Mind and Professor of Psychiatry at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
"The usual stuff of teenage years--sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll--viewed through the unusual prism of Asperger's syndrome makes for a fascinating YA read."
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While high school couldn't hold his interest, Page has had passions that have brought him attention since he was very young. His fascination with silent movies kept him busy writing, producing and filming his own shaky, black and white versions, using the neighborhood kids as his cast. "A Day with Timmy Page", a documentary about Page's movie making, shows Page as a talented, somewhat tyrannical, very young looking 13-year-old charging around shouting stage directions to his friends and yelling "Lights, action, camera!"
While turning the neighborhood kids into movie stars and chasing his passions into adulthood have caused people to admire Page for "thinking outside the box.", Page confesses early in his newly released memoir Parallel Play that he has never had more than a shadowy, uneasy sense of what those "boxes" are. The boundaries of the boxes are invisible to him, he can't make out why other people think they are significant, and he's uncertain how to steer his life around or through them--leaving him with what he describes as an anxious, melancholy feeling that his entire life has been spent in "parallel play", next to but irrevocably separate from everyone else. At the age of 45 he was finally given a name for his condition--Asperger's syndrome.
Aspperger's syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder, though Asperger's differs from conventional autism in that language and cognitive skills are not much compromised. People with Asperger's can be brilliant in their chosen fields, and if they are lucky their talents line up with skills that are considered valuable. Some of the traits "Aspies" can have include an abhorrence of changes in routine, the tendency to be easily over stimulated, a knack for being uncoordinated, the inability to effortlessly understand social cues like body language and tone of voice, and an inclination to develop obsessions they become extremely knowledgeable about that are often shared in long winded, one-sided conversations.
Neurodiversity is a relatively new word for the idea that atypical neurological development is a normal human variation. Advocates make the case that neurodiversity is as important for the vitality of human society as biodiversity is for the health of the planet. Neurodiverse Aspies enrich our lives with singular creations and penetrating insights into their fascinations of choice. A Googled list of famous people who may have been Aspies includes Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Emily Dickinson, Henry David Thoreau, and Ludwig van Beethoven.
But while many Aspies have made wonderful contributions to the world, it is not always a lot of fun to be one or live with one. Page says that as a child his "memory was so acute and his outlook so bleak" that he was sometimes described as a genius, even though he had difficulty telling left from right, and he continued to absentmindedly wet his pants into adolescence. His peculiar understandings and creative abilities may have been celebrated by the adults in his life, but he was also given any number of medical tests, psychiatric screenings, exercise regimes and medications, all with the goal of curing him.
Reading Parallel Play is eye-opening, and learning what life with Asperger's is like is really only a small part of it. Page vividly remembers things people with more ordinary brains have long forgotten, and his descriptions of what it feels like to be a child are so fully realized they can reawaken that sense in the reader, even bringing back to life personal memories long hidden in some dusty neural crevice. Parallel Play is also packed with entertaining details of the sex, drugs and rock `n roll mentality rampant in the 60s and 70s, the era when an idealistic girl Page knew was determined to turn her naturally carnivorous dog into a vegetarian, and when hippies could be pro "free love", but clueless about or even hostile towards gay rights. Page relates the history of the time and his own stumblings toward adulthood with compassion and humor.
Parallel Play began as an August 2007 New Yorker article, and though it has been greatly expanded it still maintains the deeply moving quality of the original. Asperger's and Autism memoirs are fascinating reads and are almost numerous enough now to have their own genre, but this one has the advantage of being written by someone who is a close observer of culture and a professional writer, so it's beautifully composed. Page is both insightful and unwaveringly honest, and while the book can be painfully sad it is more often hilariously funny.
But there is one particular passage, found on the last page of his story which caught me - convinced me that I would like Tim Page should I ever meet him, eye contact or not. Here it is:
"I have a mistrust of happy endings. Still, today - this hour - I am satisfied. Soon I will return to a house full of books, most of which I've read and some of which I've created - a youthful dream fulfilled."
Me too, Tim. Be happy. - Tim Bazzett, author of PINHEAD: A LOVE STORY and BOOKLOVER, coming in September 2010