a review of:
Do You Think This is Strange?
Aaron Cully Drake
Brindle and Glass Publishing
Having just completed my usual morning talk with my aged mother, I notice that I panic, and mentally search for meaning during the conversation with her. I hope to respond at the right moment, which requires knowing what we are talking about. I think I am listening, I try to listen, but I am often challenged to even know what the topic is. It seems to be skipped over, assumed perhaps, and I have to solve the puzzle quickly before the test question comes. Are you listening? What are you thinking about? I wonder if the conversation includes me, as she will often hang up mid-sentence. I wonder if the difficulty arises from age, or if communicating has always been this way, and I chose to ignore the problem? I wonder if youth has its own focus and finds most conversations irrelevant enough to ignore. But here, too, is Freddy’s problem.
Drake’s plot focuses on the strange world of Freddy, a high functioning autistic. I laughed often when reading this book at the weird dilemmas caused by miscommunications. Freddy’s dilemma below illustrates the issue. He is resisting his mother’s efforts to take him to meet a stranger called Jesus, who he is not sure he really wants to meet.
At the time, I had not yet met Jesus. Many people recommended that I get to know Him, but I had yet to be introduced, and my mother decided it was time for me to make His acquaintance. I remember struggling with my mother, who held my mask in the air as I jumped frantically, trying to snatch it back… “You can’t go to church with a mask on,” my father told me as he watched from my bedroom door. “Jesus might think you’re a mugger.” (Pg. 25)
Freddy’s world is logical, and in his mind everything proceeds without the emotional investment that plagues most humans. Literal translations are typical of his understanding of language. His worldview lands him in difficult situations where his meaning and the perception of the listener are at odds. Another event occurs for Freddy on a cold winter day.
This was the state of my thread when it was interrupted. If allowed to continue, I would have reasoned that people preface remarks with other common words, such as “Jesus Christ,” but I shouldn’t infer that the person is Jesus. Proof of this it that my father frequently addresses me, as Jesus Christ, but we both understand that my name is Freddy. “Jesus Christ!” he will shout. “I swear, the next time you spit toothpaste all over your shirt, I’m going to make you wear the damned thing all day!” (Pg. 93)
The book is not about religion. Above are delightful examples of how we assume meaning in our quick-paced daily discourse. Our social experience is tied to our ability to make giant leaps in our understanding through language. Freddy’s internal dialogue yields an interesting and heart-warming journey into his adulthood. The absurd is part of Freddy’s life, just as it is for my aged mother. The gap between two people is bridged through communication. The richness of the world is embedded in the magic of words, words that embody emotion, but for Freddy, this is missing. Freddy’s world is a mystery to most others, understanding him and his understanding of the world are at odds. And, perhaps through the elderly, we get a first hand glimpse of that gap. Words can trigger memories, allow extrapolation, grant conceptualization and share reporting, only if the mind does its job. Do You Think This Is Strange explores a new language, and if you make the effort to discover Freddy’s world, you will be amazed. The book is a delightful read full of laugh-out-loud moments.
This book review is exclusive FreeFall Blog content.