Friday, December 2, 2011

Born on a Blue Day

The Friday Morning Book Group just discussed Daniel Tammet's Born on a Blue Day, inside the extraordinary mind of an autistic savant, a memoir which I reviewed on this blog when I first read it in 2007.
Mr. Tammet begins his memoir,
"I was born on January 31, 1979 -- a Wednesday. I know it was a Wednesday, because the date is blue in my mind and Wednesdays are always blue, like the number 9 or the sound of loud voices arguing."..." I have a rare condition known as savant syndrome, little known before its portrayal by actor Dustin Hoffman in the Oscar-winning 1988 film Rain Man. Like Hoffman's character, Raymond Babbitt, I have an almost obsessive need for order and routine which affects virtually every aspect of my life."
The author's condition has been studied by autism experts world wide and because he is able to fully express what it feels like to be him, his participation in research studies is especially valuable and likewise, his memoir gives a rare glimpse into the mind of a person with synesthesia, Aspergers and savant syndrome.
The book led to a very lively discussion about normal brain function,  and cases like Daniel's which resulted in the ability to learn a new language in a week, recite Pi for hours on end to the umpty-umpth (22,514) digit, and do complex mathematical calculations quickly in his head. We discussed whether he might be a fraud, or just memorizing things by using mnemonic tricks as described in Moonwalking with Einstein, the art and science of remembering everything by Joshua Foer. Having seen Tammet on video clips of his TV appearances, most agreed that he did not appear autistic at all, but felt that his condition is genuine.

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