Friday, November 16, 2007

Beyond FINESSE: John Elder Robison

Last night I attended John Elder Robison’s talk and book signing at the Tattered Cover Book Store in downtown Denver and I’m so glad I went. It’s always fun to meet an author and get a new signed first edition for my collection, but the highlight for me is listening to author presentations. The tidbits an author reveals (or refuses to reveal) not only about his/her past but about personality traits, motivations, inspirations, etc. that led to the writing of a book or the desire to reach out to readers add a great deal to my reading.

I arrived just a few minutes early and began to read the introduction to Look Me in the Eye when I realized (through blatant eavesdropping) that John’s wife was sitting directly behind me. She was telling another lady about a recent signing during which John interacted with a boy with autism who was having trouble coping with the stimulation of the event. The boy then attended another of John’s signings…and brought John a gift. After hearing this I wasn’t surprised to see John interact with two “young Aspergians” as he called them and invite them up to introduce themselves and then sit in chairs on the stage platform with him. One boy wasn’t satisfied with that and eventually asked for (and received from John) a bottle of water near the podium, asked (and was allowed) to read an excerpt from John’s book, and then (with John’s encouragement ) acted out an excerpt while John read. This child was high-energy all the way, and John accepted that fact and worked with it while the other boy (who’d admitted shyly into the microphone that sometimes he had really good ideas) seemed to decide it was a good idea to stay out of his friend’s way. Follow that with some tricky questions from the audience and then more than a few dozen energized readers anxious to ask the author many more questions, and it was evident John was in for a long night. And it didn’t seem to phase him.

I also was impressed by the manner in which John fielded tricky questions, addressing them and the person posing the question with great care and respect. He’d mentioned earlier that he’d learned a while ago not to think too long when someone asks him something in everyday conversation. He said that a long pause usually leads the other person to get impatient and ask whether or not he’d even heard the question. He barely hesitated to answer any questions last night, and yet his answers were right on: thoughtful, careful, and above all, respectful. Though I had to run out to get back home before too late and didn’t have a chance to chat with the other Denver Literary Ladies who attended the signing, introduce myself to John’s wife (after being rude enough to eavesdrop on her conversation), or join those waiting for a chance to hang out and talk to the author, I came away with the impression that John is an incredibly intelligent, talented good guy who’s been through hell; who took years to teach himself how to interact with strangers, make friends and develop tight-knit relationships; and who deserves every good thing that comes his way.

I’m looking forward to reading Look Me in the Eye over the holidays. At the same time, I suspect—now that I’ve met John and seen what a wise, kind person he is—the realities revealed in his book will break my heart more than once but leave me in the end with a renewed sense of hope. I shouldn’t be surprised; isn’t that what most really good books do?

13 Comments:

Blogger Marla Fauchier Baltes said...

You lucky duck! I can't wait to read that book.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Thank you so much for bringing my copy of Look me in the Eye to John to sign. I really wish I'd been able to attend, but I just couldn't miss my class. This book signing definitely sounds like it was very different from any I've ever attended and if I ever get another chance to hear John read or speak, I won't miss it.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Gotta love author signings, Marla. It was great to see such a big turn-out for John, too.

He's a great speaker, Lisa. I failed to also mention in my post what an impact his book seems to be having on so many people with Asperger's and their families. Recent comments on John's blog make this especially clear.

I haven't figured out the Woof! salutation yet, but I'm guessing that will be revealed in his book. I'm finally wrapping up Love in the Time of Cholera this weekend, then I'll dive into Look Me in the Eye. TGIF! K.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Carleen Brice said...

I tried to get into a free sneak peek of a movie downtown last night, but it was full. Should have come over to TC!

8:03 PM  
Blogger Ello said...

What a great story! This book is already on my reading list but now you totally made me want to read it right away!

10:29 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Carleen, it was definitely one of the most entertaining readings I've been to! Ello, I feel the same way and can't wait to hunker down and start reading this book. I'm shooting to start Monday! K.

8:08 AM  
Blogger Jen P said...

The Hub had this book preordered as soon as he heard about it. He blogged on it and John himself left a comment to his post. As a newly dx AS adult, this book has meant a lot to him and I myself can't wait to read it. I especially liked that you blogged that John tries not to think too long when answering questions. Makes me feel normal being on the waiting end saying, "hello??"

8:46 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Jen, what an interesting perspective you and your husband each have on all this. I'm sure many, many families will benefit from the increase in understanding this book is making possible. I'll be interested to hear what you think of it. Is your husband's blog noted on your site? K.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Jen P said...

Interesting, challenging, hilarious... it's a spectrum of adjectives itself! Ha ha. Yes there is a link on the left side bar. He's a blogmaster of witty banter.

2:13 PM  
Blogger John Elder Robison said...

Jen . . . I just followed the link to see that your husband is Planet3rry. He has indeed written me and I've read his blog too.

It's a circle, I guess.

Woof.

8:26 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

It's a great circle, isn't it? I was just reading your husband's blog, too, Jen. His analysis of his marathons is fascinating! Fingers crossed for Boston! Thanks for the link.

JER, Thanks for stopping by! K.

8:35 PM  
Blogger Jen P said...

Hey I feel so special to be a part of the circle! It feels a lot less isolating!

5:22 AM  
Blogger journey said...

I just finished listening to John's audio book "look Me In The Eye"..

It was so good! My grandson sustained a brain injury while on dialysis (they pulled off too much fluid and dried out his brain) he now has taken on Autistic type traits, and unfortunately lost his ability to speak.

I also read "The Brain That Changes Itself" and one called "Meir Schneider's Miracle Eyesight Method:..." I was surprised to find we see more with our brain then with the eye...

I'm completely fascinated with the brain. I just watched John Elder speak to employees at GOOGLE, here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-k8HNFAMnDA

I particularly liked how he states this condition is NOT an illness, and scientists agree.

I loved reading your take on the book signing...

12:19 AM  

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