March 3, 2007
'Livable Utopian Subsets of the World'
Short interview with Jonathan Lethem in the Boston Globe’s great Ideas section this week:
IDEAS: You allude to autism often in your work. In the new novel, you just about declare Carl to be a high-functioning autistic. Why so much interest in autism and Asperger’s syndrome?
LETHEM: It’s evocative for me. I’m enticed by it.
IDEAS: Not that I’m diagnosing you.
LETHEM: But don’t be afraid of diagnosing me. I see Asperger’s as a defining property in a lot of areas where it is denied by the participants. So I don’t want to be denying it in myself.
And when I think about Asperger’s syndrome I think about communities and subcultures, for example, the science fiction subculture, and science fiction conventions. What kind of people go there, to feel they have a people? When I go, it feels to me that they are bound by a thinly coded, super high-functioning Asperger’s affiliation. And there’s the Internet, which is a kind of autistic Greenwich Village, a place where people wander around trying to figure out whether they fit.
There are subcultures in a lot of my work. I see them as places where people try to make livable utopian subsets of the world.
That is awesome.
Recommended: Lethem’s early (and not-that-well-known) book “Gun, With Occasional Music” is weird and terrific.