zaterdag 1 maart 2014

The Rosie Project, Sheldon Cooper & Temple Grandin

Shoot! During my last four weeks in Italy (guiding ski tours again, check my blogpost from last year to see what I've been doing) I wrote an almost finished book review blogpost in the Notes-app of my Iphone. And now it is gone! It just somehow the heck did that happen?! Aarrghh...and I liked this book só much! Now I'm gonna have to write it all over again. I simply can't let you guys nót know about this book. Thank me for it later ;)

So...the book is called 'The Rosie Project', it's the author's (Graeme Simsion) first work. And he did a great job, I really hope he's gonna write more of such heartwarming books! The main character of the story is Don Tillman. Don is a single man, working as a genetics professor and reaching the age of forty. So far nothing strange huh? But Don is a bit quirky, a little different from the average person, and definitely a lot more obsessive. He plans his life from minute to minute. He hates being too early (waste of time) just as much as being too late (violating an appointment). He even plans his thinking! Cognitive activities can be executed while cooking for example, because when you eat the same thing every monday, and every tuesday, and wednesday, etc...the attention needed for preparing the food is reduced to a bare minimum, you know. Now thát's efficiency ;)

Several covers...I have the left one, but I really like the one with the bike!

However amiable in his quirkiness, you can imagine that Don is perceived as a bit 'odd' (to put it mildly) by the people surrounding him (he has only two real friends: his colleague professor Gene and his wife Claudia). The fact that he takes everything (and I mean éverything) literally doesn't help either. Ask for 'the event in a nutshell' for example, and Don will think about the actual event taking place in a literal nutshell... While Don has to give a genetic's lecture to a class full of kids with the Asperger's Syndrome and their parents already at the beginning of the book, he never links this syndrome to his own behavior. Even though he finds the Aspies' reactions and questions extremely sensible and explicable (in contrast to their parents' behavior, who try to shush them down and make them not 'act so weird'), the penny just doesn't drop.

Reaching the age of forty, Don finds it's time to find a life-partner. Unless several dates, he hasn't had much luck so far in romance. But Don's optimistic and tackles this problem like everything else in his life: he just plans it to the tiniest detail. And we all know how easy (...?!) it is to plan love! Our professor comes up with the genius idea to make a questionnaire to select possible future partners. In his eyes, the huge amount of questions will be a perfectly efficient way to end up with a convenient spouse. The respondents have to fill in their alcohol consumption (correct answer: moderately), IQ, punctuality, weight, STD's and favorite fruity ice-cream flavors (which is actually a tricky question, because the ice numbs your taste-receptors and you shouldn't be able to distinct the flavors from each other at everyone should know, duh!).

Don calls his quest for finding a partner 'the Wife-project'. You won't believe it, but it actually provides him with some suitable candidates...which he doesn't really like at all! The whole project becomes more and more confusing for Don, especially when he starts to develop feelings for Rosie, probably the most UNsuitable candidate according to the survey. So much for planning love.

One character Don really reminded me of was (you probably already guessed it if you're a Big Bang Theory fan) Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Sheldon must be one of my favorite television characters (Jim Parsons plays him só well!), which might be one of the reasons I also liked this book so much. Sheldon and Don share many traits and peculiarities. It's wonderful to see them find their way in life and love, despite feeling such a stranger on this world sometimes. I remember once reading about someone with autism in one of Dr. Oliver Sacks' interesting books. This person explained that life with autism in our world could probably be best compared with being an anthropologist on Mars, to make 'normal' people understand how it feels. It's one of the best explanations I ever read and it always stuck with me since.

Temple Grandin and Claire Danes, who plays her in the movie.

Another person I was reminded of while reading 'The Rosie Project' is Temple Grandin. Not too long ago I watched a movie about this amazingly inspiring lady. If you're interested in autism/Asperger's, or just in inspiring people in general, you should most definitely give it a try! Temple was diagnosed with autism at a very young age and suffered from severe delayed speech development, besides many other problems. Nevertheless she ended up as a university professor and doctor of animal science, receiving honorary degrees from many universities. She works as a consultant and engineer in livestock industry and animal behavior. Being a primarily visual thinker and having a visual memory (meaning that her memories are like full-length movies in her head that may be replayed at will, allowing her to notice a lot of small details), Temple uses her visualization skills to design thoughtful and humane animal-handling equipment. Besides, she is also an activist for the rights of autistic persons, gives lectures on this subject and wrote several books about autism.

I've always had a weak spot for people with autism, and Asperger's in particular. There was even a time in my life when I wondered if I might be an Aspie myself. Being labeled with things like highly sensitive, gifted, OCD-ish and anxiety-disorder (never officially diagnosed though, my mom didn't got me tested, unlike Sheldon's mom :P) it wasn't difficult to see the similarities with the Asperger's syndrome. It seemed like all my traits, thoughts and feelings that made me sometimes feel so different from my peers, came together in this syndrome. But in the end, I came to the conclusion that I'm not a real Aspie according to the official inclusion criteria (and what's in a name anyway? Labels definitely help sometimes, but can also be the cause of even more problems and constrictions at other points!). Life can just be extremely overwhelming when you're a teenager growing into an adolescent, especially when having to deal with the traits mentioned above. I survived ;) Things are still going better, and I learn to value my own unique character, including its peculiarities. Still, the books I read about Asperger's helped me a great deal in learning how to handle specific parts of my personality. Which is probably also the reason why have that weak spot for Aspies. I just think the world would be way less interesting and diverse without them...

The people (both fictional and real) I mentioned earlier are just a couple of examples of people with Asperger's or (high functioning) autism and their potency. A commonly used term for non-autistic persons is 'neurotypicals'; people with 'normally wired brains'. I don't know about you, but language like that makes me all the more interested in the neuro-A-typicals...I can't even imagine how things work in their heads (or how hard it must be to live in a world filled with people who don't really get you), but try to think of what they can do! Invent, research, create and solve in ways that neurotypicals won't ever come up with! On the other hand I do realize that things are probably a bit romanticized in the examples above. It would be stupid to think that all Aspies have such a wonderful and understanding group of friends as Sheldon, or find so much luck in love as Don, or get the chances Temple got. I believe many of them struggle so hard that they need all their powers to survive on a foreign planet, with no energy left to actually invent, research, create, solve, or just even share their unique thoughts and views. I hope that the story of Don might play a part, even if it's just small, in encouraging people to appreciate eachother, especially the one's who act and think a bit different from the rest. Because there's always more then what meets the eye. Why not search for the uniqueness in others a bit more, instead of always trying to fit in?

Now start reading, and come back later to thank me for bringing this book under your attention, even though I had to write twó reviews for it ;)

2 opmerkingen:

  1. Thank you for the review! Very happy that you mention Temple Grandin. I saw the movie not too long ago and I was so moved by it. Never recommended it to anyone for fear they wouldn't get it. Maybe I'm not giving people enough credit ;-) Anyway she's an amazing woman!

    Also, I like Don's approach to cooking. I've often thought about all the time that is occupied by our need for food. Deciding what to make, shopping, preparing the food, eating, cleaning up... and all that, every day? That's a lot of crafting time. It's certainly time for a different approach in my house (not sure about scheduling cognitive activities though :-))

    1. Thank yóu for your comment Tirin! Temple Grandin is an amazingly inspiring woman indeed, more people should follow her example in boldness and perseverance. Don't feel ashamed to recommend the movie, I would have loved to hear about it from a friend (instead of just finding out about it via Internet).

      I love your thoughts on Don's food preparation, never looked at it that way! You're so right...I actually hate cooking, so maybe I should try his approach to save some time :D


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