Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Rowdy Free-Range Robisons

I'm making my way through Joseph LeDoux's The Synaptic Self. As you might guess, it takes a fair amount of concentration to follow the granular explanations of the feedback and feedforward loops of brain function. It's arcane stuff, but still not as complicated as finance and investing.

Sometimes I have to read the paragraphs two or three times because I "space out" and start daydreaming about other things (usually sex, food, or money) while reading.

LeDoux is very thorough about explaining nuts and bolts of the lab work that led to his conjectures about memory, motive and emotion, and how the variegated neuron circuits might work, biochemically. I believe he lays the foundation solidly for the neuroscience concept du jour, the connectome.

To cut down on my wandering focus, I've started reading the book in smaller chunks each night. I will finish it, but only after a few more small reading sessions.

As a result, to fill the time, I've dipped into Augusten Burroughs' book of humorous essays, Possible Side Effects (another $1 book). Although he is widely celebrated for his notorious memoir Running With Scissors, I stumbled on to Burroughs ( born Christopher Robison) via his brother, John Robison.

Robison, an Aspie, wrote his own hysterical memoir under the title Look Me in the Eye, and followed it up with Be Different Adventures of a Free Range Aspergian. I heartily recommend these books to anyone dealing with Autism spectrum issues, or even if you just want a good laugh.

This clever cover designed by Chip Kidd.

Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Running with Scissors comes Augusten Burroughs's most provocative collection of true stories yet. From nicotine gum addiction to lesbian personal ads to incontinent dogs, Possible Side Effects mines Burroughs's life in a series of uproariously funny essays. These are stories that are uniquely Augusten, with all the over-the-top hilarity of Running with Scissors, the erudition of Dry, and the breadth of Magical Thinking. A collection that is universal in its appeal and unabashedly intimate, Possible Side Effects continues to explore that which is most personal, mirthful, disturbing, and cherished, with unmatched audacity. A cautionary tale in essay form. Be forewarned -- hilarious, troubling, and shocking results might occur.


Augusten's big brother. John Elder Robison.

A smirk is a terrible thing to miss.

Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian with Practical Advice for Aspergians, Misfits, Families & Teachers by John Elder Robison
I believe those of us with Asperger’s are here for a reason, and we have much to offer. This book will help you bring out those gifts.”
In his bestselling memoir, Look Me in the Eye, John Elder Robison described growing up with Asperger’s syndrome at a time when the diagnosis didn’t exist. He was intelligent but socially isolated; his talents won him jobs with toy makers and rock bands but did little to endear him to authority figures and classmates, who were put off by his inclination to blurt out non sequiturs and avoid eye contact.
By the time he was diagnosed at age forty, John had already developed a myriad of coping strategies that helped him achieve a seemingly normal, even highly successful, life. In Be Different, Robison shares a new batch of endearing stories about his childhood, adolescence, and young adult years, giving the reader a rare window into the Aspergian mind.
In each story, he offers practical advice -- for Aspergians and indeed for anyone who feels “different” -- on how to improve the weak communication and social skills that keep so many people from taking full advantage of their often remarkable gifts. With his trademark honesty and unapologetic eccentricity, Robison addresses questions like:
How to read others and follow their behaviors when in uncertain social situations
• Why manners matter
• How to harness your powers of concentration to master difficult skills
• How to deal with bullies
• When to make an effort to fit in, and when to embrace eccentricity
• How to identify special gifts and use them to your advantage
Every person, Aspergian or not, has something unique to offer the world, and every person has the capacity to create strong, loving bonds with their friends and family. Be Different will help readers and those they love find their path to success.

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