Round Rock New Neighbors is a social organization of women welcoming women in the Round Rock area since 1978. Both "new" and "old" neighbors are welcome. For more information: rrnewneighbors.org [Barnes & Noble requires that RRNN's book club be open to the public, so you do not need to be an RRNN member to attend book club, and both men and women are welcome and do attend. ]

Literary Events

The Friends of the Georgetown Public Library’s Hill Country Authors Series events will be listed here. Next event:

Nov 1, 2017 2:00 PM in the Georgetown Public Library.

Highlight and right click on this "link" to see everything you need to know to attend. https://folgeorgetown.org/event/hcas-meg-gardiner/
__________
The Nobel Prize in Literature was given to author Kazuo Ishiguro.
__________
Amazon is planning a video series based on stories by Philip K. Dick. Date of release is not yet announced.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rosie Project Paints a Rosy Picture of a Difficult Disorder

The Rosie Project, by Graham Simsion, presents an unusual main character, a man who clearly is “on the spectrum” of autistic disorders. The character, Don, seems to have Asperger’s Syndrome, though he never claims the diagnosis in the book. The author leaves a few ambiguities, and Don’s actual diagnosis is one of them. During the story, the small amount of Don’s past that is offered to the reader shows that Don was always “different” and had a lot of problems due to his quirky personality but never was considered to have any kind of disorder that might be common to anyone else. Don was misunderstood from the start, by his father and brother in particular. After Don was involved with Rosie, it “came out” that his family had long thought he was gay. Don also had problems fitting in with his classmates during his childhood, to the extent that he studied and practiced martial arts. Marla, who nominated and presented the book to us,  indicated that the martial arts practice was a way of saving himself from bullying.  Janice noted that Don grew up in an era of less self-awareness than now, which could explain the scene where Don speaks to the Asperger's group without realizing that he's one of them: funny scene in the story and maybe in the originally planned movie. Marsha said that “Autism” is the modern label for at least some of what used to be called “mental retardation.” Don, of course, wasn’t retarded in every way, as he was brilliant at academics, especially science, and had an abnormally accurate memory.

We had some confusion and disagreement as to who Rosie’s real father was. Carla and I thought it was the doctor who was photographed at Rosie’s mother’s reunion, whose friend hinted strongly at this when Don questioned him during the inquest of all those who attended the reunion. Most everyone seemed to think it was Phil, the man who had raised Rosie but who she didn’t think was a good father to her. Ellen, our newest member, said that she Googled a question as to who was supposedly Rosie’s father, and that many hits came up and that many pages have been written on this topic. The author somewhere indicated that Phil was the father.

Marla asked us to suggest why the author included Gene in the story. Here are notes I wrote for some answers; some may be fairly direct quotes (I'm always open to corrections):

Pam: Marla had said that the author originally wrote the story as a movie script and then changed it to a novel…and so since a movie needs a focus on sex, Gene was it.
Carla: At the end, the tables turn and Don shows his character to have grown when he gives Gene advice to stop acting like a child in his getting involved with too many women.
Lydia: Gene was another possible father for Rosie, which added some excitement to that aspect of the plot.
Ellen: Gene was a friend for Don as well as a candidate for Rosie’s father.
Dennis: Gene was a collector, of women from foreign countries.
Pam: Gene was an unfortunate choice of character.
Cindy T.: Both Gene and Don were coming of age during the story, each in his own way.

Marla started another conversation by stating that the author was trying to depict empathy and asked the question as to whether love is empathy and how that relates to happiness. If Asperger’s syndrome renders a person unable to feel empathy or maybe unable to understand it if they feel it, how can they love another person? There was some discussion about Don changing his ways for Rosie and whether this would be sustainable. Pam said that Don will constantly be working on changing his natural inclinations or at least his actions. Carla said that while Don was changing some behaviors to be more appealing to Rosie, he was benefitting from these changes by broadening his range of experiences and he was aware that he was enjoying and feeling better in some ways after making these changes.

Patty asked whether empathy or friendship can be taught. A number of people shared personal experiences about family members who have been diagnosed with autistic-spectrum disorders such as Asperger’s Syndrome and about their own feelings of not fitting in. This moved to a discussion about introverts and their coping mechanisms in our society, which seems to value extroverts. The conversation was lively, and I was thinking of asking the group, “How many consider yourself an introvert?” I wondered particularly about our group because of so many of us being prolific readers. The conversation moved on before I had a chance to ask the question, and it became off the subject. But, you might now think about whether people who love to read tend to be introverts.

Those who didn’t completely enjoy the book had the following criticisms:
Offensive depiction of autism and Asperger’s, complete with mockery and oversimplification.
Don as an unappealing choice for a woman to fall in love with, so the love story was contrived.
Not funny.
Didn’t ever figure out who was implied to be Rosie’s father.
There were an equal number of rebuttals to these disagreements, Kathleen saying that it was uplifting that the story showed that Don could enable himself to lead a full life. Carla said that Don was a stereotypical man in some ways and that everyone has to play some games sometimes to fit in. Janice compared Don to the very popular Sheldon character on the TV series, The Big Bang Theory. Patty said she laughed at the part where Don was practicing his dancing with a skeleton. Others laughed during reading this book, too.

No comments: