A riveting account of living with autism.
Tammet, a 27-year-old Brit, is a highly functional autistic individual and something of a genius when it comes to numbers—he’s a terrific chess player and knows over 22,000 digits of pi. Here, he chronicles his often confusing childhood and his successful adult life. As a schoolboy, he felt isolated: Autistic children tend toward literalism, and they have a difficult time catching unstated nuances in speech. And so, when teachers or friends spoke to Tammet but failed to ask him a direct question, he didn’t realize he was supposed to respond. Although, as the author explains, autistic people tend not to catch on to emotional undercurrents, Tammet is quite attentive to the stresses and strains in his childhood home: His father had a nervous breakdown and there was never enough money (Tammet experienced his parents’ fights as a color—blue). Turning to adolescence and his early 20s, Tammet recalls coming out as gay, but he doesn’t allow sexuality to take over the book. Perhaps the most affecting chapters come near the end, as the author describes the quiet comfort he has achieved with his partner, Neil. In the predictable order of their shared home, Tammet feels “calm…and secure.” Tammet usefully sets his own story in a wider context, with period discussions of the state of research into autism and Asperger’s syndrome. At times, he is quite poetic, especially when he writes about numbers. In his mind, numbers have shape, color and texture. Describing his occasional nighttime visions of numbers, Tammet explains that “walking around my numerical landscapes…I never feel lost, because the prime number shapes act as signposts.”
Transcends the disability-memoir genre.