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March 30, 2009


Listener James from Westwood

I bought Motherless Brooklyn on the strength of your book-club show devoted to it, and enjoyed it enough to buy a second copy as a gift for someone way before either her birthday or Christmas. I just felt she needed to have it. The effect of the Prince tune "Kiss" on the protagonist and his Tourette's was fascinating, and one of those details that made me, too, believe that Lethem had done his homework on the syndrome.


have you read Flowers for Algernon?

Charlene Pederson

I would recommend "Silver-My Own Tale as Told By Me With A Goodly Amount Of Murder", which purports to be the autobiography of Long John Silver of Treasure Island fame. The catch is that Silver is not the lovable rogue that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about but a scheming sociopath. Strangely, it is a very scary and very funny book. The book is written from Silver's point of view.


picked up motherless in a junk store on roosevelt island and loaned it to everyone i knew.

so what is the signifigance of 'essrog?'

Bronwyn C.

Essrog--usually spelled esrog--is a fruit used symbolically in the celebration of the Jewish festival of Succoth. As for the significance of it in the book, there's lots of speculation and you can look it up and decide for yourself.

Of course I've read "Flowers for Algernon," Listener Tim, because I was once a junior-high-school girl. I thought about whether or not to include it, but decided it wasn't quite the same as the others--not a first-person narrative, character is retarded, then smart, then retarded again, and the condition is seen as somehow tragic. In the other books, the conditions are seen more as just differences, different ways of perceiving the world. When I read "Flowers for Algernon," I thought it was wrong for the girlfriend to dump him when he wasn't intelligent anymore--how important is intelligence to a person's true character, their inner soul? What is it that makes you love someone? It was partly because of that book that I dated a retarded guy for a while, although Sluggo doesn't like me to talk about it.


I'm currently reading Temple Grandin's book -Thinking In Pictures-, and recommend it highly. It's true that she doesn't describe the differences between being autistic and non-autistic, but in this book she does describe in great detail her thinking process (which, as the title suggests, is highly visual) and means of understanding information, and how she has learned that her means of understanding are quite different from those of non-autistic people. It's fascinating.

Another book about autism I've found illuminating is Paul Collins' -Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism-. Collins writes about the experience of discovering that his young son is autistic, and he uses that experience to write about the history of autism as a recognized medical condition (suprisingly, according to Collins, as recently as the 50's, autism was thought to be the result of bad parenting, not genetics). I learned about Temple Grandin's writing from Collins' book.

Listener Bruce

It wasn't Jonathan Lethem who called you that day, it was just me, listener Bruce.

Thijs R.

My comment vanished, so I will redo. Who is this Sluggo that you speak of?

Bronwyn C.

Sorry, Listener Thijs. Sluggo's my husband, and he doesn't like me talking about my old boyfriends. (I think some of them were quite amusing, though.)

Mike B.

Two recommendations:

THE DOCTOR IS ILL by Anthony Burgess


I'd never steer you wrong.


Eternal Reader, Occasional Listener and Former Assistant Mike

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