Thursday, September 24, 2009

Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robinson ****

Aspberger's syndrome might be the formal designation for nerd. In Look Me in the Eye, John Elder Robinson's memoir unfolds both the best and worst of nerdom. While occasionally tedious or even embarrassing, John Elder's biography is fascinating from dropping out of high school, to designing sound systems for Pink Floyd, special effects for KISS, and electronic toys for Milton Bradley.

One of my many favorite scenes was the time John Elder and some of his teen-aged friends built a tub of circulating gasoline to clean auto parts. Unfortunately the whole thing caught on fire. Imagine the scene as the fire department started unrolling hoses with John Elder's friend Jim shouting:
No! I'm telling you, water is dangerous on a magnesium fire! You need foam!
As you might imagine, the firemen felt no reason to listen to a couple of teenagers who started the fire in the first place. After the burning gasoline and magnesium exploded spreading the fire everywhere,
Jim politely reminded them it was their fault. "You should have listened to me. Look at the mess you idiots made!" [The actual dialogue was probably worse, since I read the paperback edition which has had its language cleaned up for use in the schools.]
I find myself retelling many of the stories in this book, drawn to the mixture of insensitivity and brilliance, compulsivity and creativity. It is a wonderful reminder of the triumphs and defeats in the life of a nerd.

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