Fingers in the Sparkle Jar - Chris Packham

This was a birthday present to me, and is the memoirs of Chris Packham, the incredibly-enthusiastic-about-animals guy from The Really Wild Show. It's sold as a book about how "it would take a magical relationship with a Kestrel for a young boy to learn the lessons of love, life, death and acceptance."

That's a total mis-selling of this book.

It's actually a story of someone growing up with Asperger's. All the nature stuff is a channel for the obsession, but so much of the book is isolation, differentness, and finding joy in the things you care about.

I wouldn't say I'm completely outside the spectrum. One of the nice things about working in engineering at Google is that I'm pretty much normal for the place. However, Chris's description are completely alien to me. He's so into nature, in the whole way of getting into the slime, the goo, the discomfort, the life and the death. The stories of him haphazardly killing the wildlife he loves are strange and painful to me (and feel rather symbolic).

I found the prose incredibly hard to read, too. As well as continually jumping around chronologically, the text is massively overwrought. Remove the metaphors, the similes, the factoids anchoring it in the '70s, and most of all the huge weight of adjectives, and there wouldn't be much left (but it would be interesting and readable!). I can't tell if this is deliberate or not, but it seems a perfect metaphor for being in constant sensory overload, a book that drives you to want to find some peace and quiet, separation from the blur.

In many ways, I don't like this book. It hurts too much, and it's a pain to read. On the other hand it's the best insight into the autistic spectrum that I've read, being so much more real than anything else. Eat your heart out, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. :p

Posted 2019-09-08.