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Born on a Blue Day: A Memoir of Aspergers and an Extraordinary Mind Hardcover – 13 Jul 2006
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"With all due respect to Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and any living Nobel laureates, the most remarkable mind on the planet just might belong to DanielTammet...Tammet displays a surprising level of sensitivity -- and a refreshing lack of sentimentality -- in an account that inspires even as it astonishes." -- "Entertainment Weekly"
A fascinating and touching memoir from real-life Rain Man, Daniel Tammet, who has the extremely rare condition Savant Syndrome.See all Product description
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Although this first person narrative of an autistic boy's struggle is at times agonising to read, it is far from being just another agony memoir. Daniel is a phenomenon, not only in his facility with numbers, but in his ability to pick up foreign languages from scratch in just a week. Moreover, he writes well and has become an ambassador for all mentally disabled people. His brain has the almost magical capacity to short-circuit normal brain processes by seeing patterns and colours in numbers and words. A BBC documentary, Brainman, was broadcast in 2005 charting his challenge to learn Icelandic in just one week to a level in which he was able to interact with his Icelandic TV hosts.
Born on a Blue Day begins by describing his pre-nursery school days in which he cries every day and night, cared for by his two heroic parents, who would take turns in rocking and swinging him in a blanket. He confesses early on to `an almost obsessive need for order and routine.' Thus he would cry if his father took a different route to nursery school. Numbers are his friends and he personifies them, so that 5 is loud, while 11 is friendly and 4 is shy and quiet. Numbers and books, especially the bright Mr Men series stand in place of people, even his own siblings whom he would ignore.
Only very gradually does Daniel learn to look people in the eye. He suffers an epileptic seizure and his only friends are spectral. But finally he reaches out in secondary school to friends, staying with a French boy away from his own room for a short period. His Asperger's diagnosis also puts him in touch with clinics and psychiatric professionals. He joins a chess club, where he didn't have to talk to the other players, passes his GCSE exams with distinction, and has his first crush - on a boy. Finally he leaves home, having found support through VSO, for Lithuania, and is now almost independent.
Daniel's success in adapting to the real world is crowned by his visit to America, where he is welcomed as a savant. `Not long ago I would have been terrified at the idea of entering a hotel ...trying not to end up desperately lost. By this time, aged 24, though, I was so used to hotels that it wasn't a problem. I collected my keys, walked up the stairs and went to bed.' Back home `when I give a talk on behalf of a charity in front of lots of people I sit or stand in such a way as to be able to see Neil [his partner] in the audience, and I imagine that I'm taking just to him. Then I don't feel so nervous.'
For an extreme portrayal, watch the amazing Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper in 'The Big Bang Theory'. People aren't normally quite like that, and Daniel Tammet explains it superbly.
Also see 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time'
Sherlock Holmes seemed to exhibit behaviors, making one wonder how Conan Doyle was so well versed in it to write about him.
He has a very rare combination of both Autism and Synaesthesia. Most of us probably think we know something about Autism and will have seen the films Rain Man and A Beautiful Mind, and many of us might even have a small hint of it in our own nature. But for me the most fascinating aspect of the book was how he came to terms with finding out about his Synaesthesia and then using it. To my envious mind it is an advantage adding an extra texture and a more subtle flavour to the world around us, and not merely another 'condition' needing treatment. I sympathise with him needing to avoid the heat and pressure of crowds, and to find a calmer and more ordered, organised, tidy existence.
I'm not aware of myself having any aspects of either Autism or Synaesthesia, but the book strikes a loud and ringing chord with me, and I very much want him to succeed in life. I found his prose somewhat stilted at times, and his attention to detail took some getting used to, but it adds to the flavour of the book, and gives us a very private glimpse into the precision and depths of his mind.
One needs some time and patience to read the book, and being sympathetic will help a lot with your enjoyment of it. If you are not interested in a personal look at modern life from an unusual viewpoint, and if you don't have the time to sit back and think about what he has to say in several parts of the book before continuing to read, then don't buy it. But if you would like to discover how to overcome major conceptual difficulties in adapting to a strange and nonsensical society (ours!) then read on.
It will not be to everyone's taste, but I enjoyed reading it, and immediately re-read it from the beginning, and was left with a warm feeling from the reflection of his achievements.
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difficult to read in places but persevere