Monthly Archives: September 2009

Autism and adults….really?

Okay, granted, I have never studied autism. I don’t know much of the research and what I do know I get strictly from the news and conversations with people who have actually studied autism or deal with it on a regular basis (like my mom and my sister). I do know that one concern is over-diagnosis of autism and autism-spectrum disorders, which is why this article kind of disturbs me.

All that the article says is ‘new research funded by the Department of Health’ shows that 1 in 100 adults has autism. There is no link to the new research, no quotation from anyone who carried out the research, and no formal statement from the Department of Health. Just ‘new research’. What kind of research? What criteria are they using to diagnose? There are things that are part of responsible science reporting, and some of those things are missing in this article.

Also, ‘Mozart, Orwell, Einstein, Beethoven and Newton all had it’? Really? Again, by what criteria? When was this decided, and by whom? I’m pretty sure autism wasn’t recognized as a disorder when Mozart was alive, or Newton (anyone know when it was first diagnosed?). Posthumous diagnoses are tricky, because they are based on necessarily biased and incomplete accounts of a person’s behavior. My first instinct, when reading a statement like that lead, is to see it as nothing more than a publicity attempt, especially when there’s no further context for it. I’m not saying that the diagnoses are necessarily wrong, you understand. I just think it’s a troubling attempt to impose modern criteria on personalities of other eras, especially when it’s autism which is such a vaguely defined but highly public diagnosis anyway. I’d like to see whatever study came up with the idea that Mozart and Newton and especially Beethoven were autistic.

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Goodbye, Guiding Light

Soap operas are literature, too, right?

1 Comment

Filed under Romance

Bet Me, by Jennifer Crusie

This is one of my favourite romance novels of all time. Actually, no, scratch that. This is one of my favourite novels of all time.  I have other favourites, as well: A Room with a View, by E.M. Forster; Tam Lin, by Pamela Dean; Tess of the D’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy; whatever other ones I have listed on my facebook page. But Bet Me is definitely on the list of ‘comfort books’, books that stay with me.  It’s not just that the story stays with me. Every so often, specific scenes and specific passages pop into my head, and then I want to (have to) reread the book.  It’s kind of like when you get a song stuck in your head, and then you listen to the song in the hope that it will get the song out of your head. That never works for me with songs, but I consistently try it anyway.

 (Note: One definition of insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.’ God, I need therapy.)

Anyway. Bet Me. It’s one of those dangerous books for me to read, because it gives me hope that one day I will find an all-consuming, intense love like Min and Cal’s. 99% of the time I’m cynical about love but there’s that 1% of hope, that longing for someone to break through my cynicism, and books like Bet Me (and movies like When Harry Met Sally) feed that 1%. I would be so much calmer if I could get rid of that 1%.It is an incredible book, though. I love Jennifer Crusie’s writing (I read her blog, too, although I don’t comment there – I don’t comment on most of the blogs that I read because I am afraid of coming across as a crazy stalker) but some of her books are breathless and intense because of frustrating situations. This one is breathless and intense because of the relationship and the way that people are dealing with it. Which, for me, is better.

Some of the scenes that stick with me are kind of pivotal scenes. Hopefully without spoiling anything too much, they include the scene in the movie theatre (especially the silent walk home) and the scenes where the universe is hurting them, especially Cal’s. The fight after he sings might end up in my head next time, too.

Other things I love about Bet Me: the strong female friendships (I miss my sister and my best friends – I hope the Three-Year Plan works out), Cal’s support for Min’s body type even in the face of her mother’s insistence that skinny = keeping a man, the variety of romantic relationships (Bonnie and her fairy tale, Min and Cal and fighting it, Liza and her casualness, Diana and her search), and most of all I love that sex does not automatically equal pregnancy. I love that having kids isn’t even a part of Min’s fairy tale. In so many romance novels, the heroine gets pregnant either the first time that she has sex or the first time she has unprotected sex, and at the very least the book ends with a pregnancy announcement. As someone who doesn’t necessarily see kids (or even marriage) in her future, it’s so nice to have a heroine who also doesn’t rely on the ‘typical’ family for her dream of happiness.

There are so many good things about Bet Me that it’s impossible to list them all here. It’s one of the books that I turn to when I’m having a bad anything: day, week, month, love life, etc. It’s a book where I want to take the main character as my role model in so many things.  It’s a book that reassures me even as it gives me (false) hope. It’s a book that everyone who likes ‘chick-lit’ should definitely read, and it’s possibly a book that will change the minds of people who look  down on ‘chick-lit’.  It’s that good.

2 Comments

Filed under Romance

Ain’t She Sweet, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

This is a re-read for me. I was scanning through my e-reader looking for Anna Karenina and saw this title and couldn’t remember which one it was. I knew I’d read it before, because I’ve read all the SEP books that I have, but I couldn’t remember which one it was.

 Once I started reading it, I remembered it but by that point I was back into the book and had to finish it.  It’s a book I enjoy, with good messages about not judging people by who they used to be, forgiveness, and the importance of family. And, of course, a fast-moving romance.

 The one thing that bothered me this time, more than I remember being bothered by it before, was the way the main couple got together. Obviously there was an attraction there, even though both of them were denying that there was one and that there had been one in their history, but the first time they kiss is while they’re fighting. Now I understand that fighting is foreplay for many people, but this particular incident sort of comes out of nowhere, and is quite aggressive on the guy’s side. It’s not rape, but he also doesn’t really give her a chance to say no, and this time through it made me quite uncomfortable.  Not uncomfortable enough to stop reading, of course, and the way that the relationship progressed was fine, but uncomfortable nonetheless.

 I do really enjoy the relationships in this book, though – Colin and Sugar Beth are the main one, but I also really enjoy Gigi and Winnie and Sugar Beth and the family triangle that they form as well. It’s fast, because it has to be contained within the length of the novel, but the transition from ‘I hate you’ to ‘We’re family’ is effective and organic.

 And the other thing that this book does for me is re-inspire me to write myself – to lock myself away for a week or so and just force myself through the mental pain until I get stuff done. Of course, I have learned through long experience that that technique doesn’t really work so well for me (at least, not when I am also going through romantic troubles of my own) but I still keep wanting to try it, hoping that this time, this idea, will be the one that fully feeds the obsession.  I’ll get there someday.

Leave a comment

Filed under Romance

A Brief History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson

I really like Bill Bryson’s writing voice. It’s wry, it’s distinctive, it’s colloquial without being overly dated.  I was a little bit nervous about this book, because I tend to like Bryson’s specifically travel books better than anything else (I have not gotten all the way through Thunderbolt Kid, for instance – although I haven’t tried his Shakespeare book yet). But I quite enjoyed this book, which, if you don’t know, is all about the history of science. Every science – chemistry, physics, geology, biology, anthropology, paleontology, astronomy, etc. – is described from the beginning of the Enlightenment to the beginning of the 21st century. It’s like a travel book through the history of science.

One of the things that reading books like this does to me is make me want to read more books like this. I walked into Blackwell’s today and had to restrain myself from buying an anthology of science writing. I also had to restrain myself from adding lots of obscure public-domain science books to my list, and looking up ways that I could get extra degrees in things like chemistry or bacterial biology or astronomy or even just mathematics. Books like this also make me want to write books like this: I have at least one travel book started in my head now. The only problem is that my writing keeps sounding like Bryson, and not so much like me yet.

Because that’s another thing that reading books like this does to me: it makes me want to know everything about everything. The world doesn’t know a lot about bacteria? I should study it! It’s a part of my whole ‘searching-for-focus’ thing that doesn’t work well because I’m interested in EVERYTHING. I want to find a niche that I can fill; unfortunately the niches that are out there don’t quite mesh with my current education or experience.

I did notice quite a few references in the book to amateurs – people who were in other fields and did science almost as a dedicated hobby, and ended up making amazing discoveries. I don’t know how feasible that would be today. Most of the things that I am interested in (genetics, for example, or astronomy) require equipment that I don’t have access to at this point, and I don’t know how I would be able to get access to it. Maybe I’ll become a mathematical ‘celebrated amateur’ instead. Or a (semi-trained) linguist. (Or maybe I’ll just stick to being a voracious reader of everything that I can get my hands on.)

Overall I liked the book, obviously. Also, I figured out how to read footnotes on the ereader, which is a plus. Science is fascinating, and Bryson makes the history of science accessible. I probably won’t remember some of the names and facts in a week or so – it’s not a textbook, and I wasn’t taking notes or anything – but the love of it definitely will stay with me.

Leave a comment

Filed under Non-Fiction (Science)

Dissertation texts

I am writing my MA dissertation on the role of musicians in Middle English poetry. I am starting to reach the point where, even though it’s nowhere near where I want it to be and nothing works the way I thought it would in my head, I may just have to call it done.

One of the good things, though, is that all of the texts I am working on are available online. So, if anyone’s interested….

Sir Orfeo – This was the poem that inspired the dissertation topic.

Orpheus and Eurydice – Another Orpheus story, but very different than the above.

Sir Cleges – A Christmas story, sort of.

Sir Tristrem – A Middle English version of the Tristan story

Bits of Confessio Amantis – There are a few stories in here that feature musicians, although it is probably the text that I am weakest on.

My deadline is Monday…..I will post again and talk more about these texts, maybe, after I’ve finished and turned it in.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry