Monday, January 25, 2016

An NPR Day

I'm grateful for this stay-cation day at home, with Leonard Lopate on the radio.  He interviewed Ian Buruma about his new book which features letters between his grandparents.  The grandfather was very funny and the grandma more complicated, so he puts it in one moment of this interview. 45 was their code for being Jewish, he doesn't know why.

"The past is always with us." - William Falkner. Lopate quotes this while talking with Tessa Hadley , who just released The Past.  They're discussing how writing is crafted, and how memoirs are more like fiction than we admit because the past is a great mystery that we can't actually walk back inside.  Yet, she does, in her writing, get inside things, says Lopate.  A boy gets a haircut.  And he changes. His grandfather was a vicar and a poet and he becomes a philosopher/critic..  She tries to capture the bit by bit chaos of momentary existence, she says. She published her first novel at 46 and is unsure why she didn't write anything she was pleased with till then, but she didn't.  She thinks it's because she was trying to be A.R. Gurney, rather than walking inside her own imagination and speaking of what she knows. In the long run the imitating helped her have some heft when she opened he door to the home she knew. She's presently honeymooning with a new novel, while not doubting that disenchantment will come.

"If you've met one person with autism, then you've met one person with autism." So quotes an author now being interviewed by Lopate.  The term was coined in around 1911 about schizophrenics who sometimes went deeply into themselves. Later it became a term for something that stood alone.  Fact: autistic people often have perfect pitch.  Echolalia is when a person repeats a prase over and over again. Donald T. used to repeat, "I could put a little comma." Eventually he was blessed to get unstuck from his echalalia. His life is told as part of this new book, In A Different Key. He has lived a full life.

Bruno Bettelheim said that kids got autism as a defense mechanism because their mothers were cold to them, refrigerator moms.  He was wrong, but he spoke from with authority based on  his experience in the Holocaust, seeing how people withdrew...  This approach caused great damage.

The authors are talking now about Willowbrook and Geraldo in 1972.  From the late 1890s there were these kind of expose's every 10-15 years but they didn't stick.  The shame that came was strong.  People were told to put their kids into institutions and care for the rest of their kids instead. This was normative, protocol, how society was. Cattle prods and electric shock were used. ABA - applied behavior analysis - was and is still used, but now it's applied in a better way, positively reinforcing. Interesting stuff, talking now about Aspergers, how creative the people who have it often are.

"You see what you think you see," - Caren Zucker, co-author of In A Different Key.

I'm still listening but going to hold off on writing a play by play. Wishing everyoe a good NPR ornon-NPR day.


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