Thursday, August 28, 2008

And Now, A Frivolous Literary Post

I've always considered it a huge help when getting to know a person to read the books that are important to them, and to try to unearth traces of their philosophy, ethics, personality or mode of expression in the characters. Maybe it's the English major in me, but I've always had the greatest success understanding people by analogy with fictional characters.

I don't know if any of you are like that, but here (in no particular order) is a list of characters with whom I identify deeply:

Alia Atreides, Dune
Laertes, "Hamlet"
Stephen Dedalus, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Atalanta, Greek mythology
Tullus Aufidius, "Coriolanus"
Sansfoy, Book I of The Faerie Queene
Britomart, Books III and V of The Faerie Queene
Tybalt, "Romeo and Juliet"
Mr. Lawrence, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Brienne of Tarth, A Song of Ice and Fire
Therem Harth rem ir Estraven, The Left Hand of Darkness
Cassius, "Julius Caesar"
Rogue, "X-men" comics
Valentine Michael Smith, Stranger in a Strange Land
Storm, "X-Men" comics
Tyrion Lannister, A Song of Ice and Fire
Nightcrawler, "X-Men" comics
Two, Delia Daella and Raquel, Tales of MU

None of these characters is explicitly autistic. Many of them have something going on that approximates an aspect of my experience of autism (say, Rogue's inability to be touched, Alia's unique mental abilities, Atalanta's feralness, Stephen Dedalus's powerful imagination, fierce creativity and intellectual isolation, Two's literalness), but obviously the analogy is always going to be imperfect.

I have only encountered four autistic characters in novels: Lou Arrendale in The Speed of Dark, Crake in Oryx and Crake, Blackwolf in Soon I Will Be Invincible and Christopher Boone in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Of those, Blackwolf and Crake both struck me as ciphers. They weren't autistic characters so much as they were opportunities for their authors to use autism for their own metaphorical purposes.


CS McClellan/Catana said...

Well, phooey. Now I'll have to reread Oryx and Crake. I read it before knowing much about the spectrum, and I don't really remember much about Crake. From the Dune universe, I probably identify most closely with Paul or one of the mentats.

The second novel of Nancy Kress's Beggars trilogy, Beggars Ride, has characters who are very autistic-like, the super-sleepless.

Lindsay said...

...Nancy Kress's Beggars trilogy ...

There's one I need to pick up, so I guess we're even.

stevethehydra said...

I nominate Denver from Toni Morrison's "Beloved" for best "autistic-like" fictional character...

Lindsay said...

I have Beloved; I started reading it not too long ago (having gotten exposed to Morrison in a class and read her The Bluest Eye and Song of Solomon, both of which I really liked) and couldn't really get into it.

I have been thinking to try it again, though. I saw on your blog that you've read it many times.