Look Me In The Eye by John Elder Robison

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Look Me In The Eye by John Elder Robison

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: John Elder Robison would have had the childhood from Hell even if he had not had Asperger's Syndrome long before such a diagnosis existed.It's a wonderful story of how he overcame his difficulties and made an outstanding life for himself. Oh, yes - and he built those legendary fire-breathing guitars for KISS too. The book is highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: February 2008
Publisher: Ebury Press
ISBN: 978-0091924690

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As I write I have my grandson's photo on my desk. He has Asperger's Syndrome, which is at the 'able' end of the autistic spectrum. He has a loving family and a supportive school which understands his difficulties and works with him to get through them. He's a happy child and apart from an occasional tendency to be tactless ('I've never seen you look so old, Nanna.') you wouldn't know that there was a problem.

John Elder Robison had the parents from hell. His father's best friend was a sherry bottle and his mother's mental instability meant that she talked to light fittings. John couldn't look people in the eye and was unable to build any sort of relationship with other children. He had odd compulsions such as digging deep holes and dropping his brother into them – head first. Far from helping him, his school was only too glad to see him leave – before he should have done – and he ended up living wild. John had Asperger's Syndrome before such a diagnosis existed and it wasn't until he was in middle age that all the pieces clicked together and he realised the reasons for his difficulties.

If you suspect that your child has Asperger's Syndrome and you're looking for help and advice on getting the support that the child needs then this is not the book for you. On the other hand if you would like an insight into the mind of a child or an adult with Asperger's then this is gold dust. Far from being a Peltzer-like misery memoir, this is a story told without affectation and not a touch of self-pity. It's simply about the way it was and how somebody who is 'different', but doesn't understand why, manages to cope.

Many people with Asperger's have savant-like abilities. My grandson has been an exquisite artist since he was quite small. You can ask him to draw anything that you like – but what you will get is a ship. John Elder Robison's abilities were in the field of electronics and particularly sound, where he could work wonders with equipment. He was able to visualise electronic circuits. Eventually he was responsible for creating the legendary fire-breathing guitars for KISS. To some extent no one in the music industry was 'normal' so Robison didn't stand out as being much different, but throughout his life he had struggled to appear to be as other people, to conform. It was only when his therapist handed him a book about Asperger's Syndrome that he discovered the reason why he was different.

Most children learn to make eye contact with other people. They realise that certain facial expressions fit certain circumstances and that it's inappropriate to use the wrong ones. Gestures fall into the same category. They form relationships with other children and there's spontaneity in the way that they share their thoughts and achievements. For children with Asperger's Syndrome none of this comes naturally and needs to be consciously learned and it wasn't until he read the book about Asperger's that Robison realised that his behaviour was unusual. The book is not a justification for his behaviour; this was the way that he was and he would see no need for justification.

You don't need to have any association with Asperger's to appreciate this book. Even if you forget that point, what you get is an extraordinary story well told. For someone with an acknowledged difficulty in communicating with others he tells this story with a directness and simplicity which is far more effective than any misery memoir. The book is highly recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book to the Bookbag.

In suggesting other reading John Elder Robison recommends The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon. It's a fictional account about the life of a child with Asperger's Syndrome but like this book it's highly recommended.

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Buy Look Me In The Eye by John Elder Robison at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Look Me In The Eye by John Elder Robison at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Look Me In The Eye by John Elder Robison at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Look Me In The Eye by John Elder Robison at Amazon.com.


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