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Not being a great lover of television, Boze Herrington learned to navigate the world through the classics.
Ray Bradbury taught him to question authority, and that if someone tries to forbid you from reading it’s acceptable to disappear into the woods and recite poetry. Little Women provided the valuable lesson that almost letting your sister drown is an acceptable punishment for destroying your novel in progress. Jane Austen showed that even a socially awkward clergyman who gets over-excited about staircases and boiled potatoes can find love.
This book takes the reader through a journey of falling in love with literature, with individual chapters devoted to Shakespeare, Dickens, Hans Christian Andersen, Agatha Christie and One Thousand and One Nights. On the way the reader will develop a deeper love of fiction, particularly classic fiction, while gaining consolation and hard-earned wisdom for the travails and tribulations of growing up.
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Boze Herrington believes in imagination and the restorative power of fiction. He hails from south-central Texas, where he is currently neck-deep in writing a middle-grade mystery. Ray Bradbury, Agatha Christie and Doctor Who were among his formative influences. He tweets about faith, hope and literature on twitter @sketchesbyboze.
Reading Alice in Wonderland as an adult, it seems obvious that the books were written as a means of coping with a social world that the writer only half understood. The characters that Alice meets in Wonderland and beyond the looking glass are so thoroughly unpleasant, constantly insulting and reprimanding her and making up rules as it suits them. The Mad Hatter wishes to inform her that her hair wants cutting. The deer in the forest of no names dashes off when he realizes that Alice is human. The Caterpillar and Humpty Dumpty take umbrage over trivial comments. Carroll’s genius was to make the fluid and ever-shifting relationships in this story a perfect mirror of Wonderland itself. What’s more, these relationships convey something fundamental about the experience of life on the spectrum. Those of us on the spectrum are haunted by a lingering sense that everyone else has secretly been given a rulebook of human behaviour except us. Relationships end abruptly and often without explanation. We live in fear of inadvertently offending people by some stray remark spoken in innocence. We’re familiar with the experience of a whole group of people turning against us suddenly and without warning - an experience coded in the trial scene in Alice when the entire pack of cards joins together and attacks her.
There was another aspect of the book's whimsy that appealed to me: its absolute disdain for moral priggishness. Alice was, famously, one of the first works of children’s literature to be written without any sort of moral objective. Like L. Frank Baum, the writer of the Oz series, Lewis Carroll didn’t seem to care whether children came away edified from reading his books. On the contrary, the books read as an assault on the self-righteous pretensions of Victorian society - this despite the fact that Carroll was himself a devout Christian. He ruthlessly lampoons the dreary, didactic hymns of Isaac Watts; '‘Tis the Voice of the Sluggard,' Watts’ ode to hard work and industrious living, becomes in Carroll’s hands '‘Tis the Voice of the Lobster,' a poem of several stanzas about lobsters sugaring their hair and a panther sharing a pie with an owl. There is a certain spiteful edge to Carroll’s whimsy, even at its most innocent. The Ugly Duchess who speaks only in moralistic aphorisms ('everything’s got a moral,' she says, 'if only you can find it') seems to stand in for every well-meaning adult who would try to impose meaning on the Alice books.
- 23rd March 2021 New Extract: Growing Up on the Spectrum with Hans Christian Andersen
The following is a 2,500-word excerpt from the opening chapter of Doomscrolling, in which I discuss my journey of learning I was on the autism spectrum and how the life story of Hans Christian Andersen gave me a literary and biographical framework for making sense of it. I hope it will dispel some of the mystery surrounding autism and illuminate what it’s like to be a person with…
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Felisha Riggs McDaniel