Parallel Play (Tim Page - 2009)

A much longer book is distilled into Parallel Play, which of course I mean as high praise, and while it is written with a deft and almost musical touch, that only serves to intensify how it feels when the author touches a nerve directly - either his own or one of mine.

My sister sent me this book after she read my own novel, and while I don't feel I am the same as the author in terms of temperament or placement on the autism spectrum (though I have to have been on it somewhere in the past if not still) there are definitely correspondences, and I am glad that the author has already figured out that he is not alone in having grown up feeling 'parallel' as he puts it.

Another overlap was coincidental: I was reading "The Rest Is Noise" by Alex Ross with only a short ways to go, and I was just through the development of musical minimalism when I got my hands on "Parallel Play" and couldn't put it down. And here I found that Tim Page was there as minimalism developed, and went to see Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians" performed when it first came out, and was friends with Phillip Glass. I admit I've always harbored a snooty disdain for minimalism, but then more recently certain works have surprised me. Having read both these books, I think it's time I take another listen.

Some other reviewers have complained that Page goes on too much about music, but music is one of his core interests (not to mention the core of his being), and the music is nicely woven into the story, so I fail to see the problem. But of course I am also steeped in music and have spent years failing to get other people to feel as fascinated.

Above all what I savored so much in this story of growing up was the close-to-the-bone honesty, which makes the funny funnier and the hurt more painful. While the book mostly concerns the author's early years (where I would have been happy to spend more time) and then telescopes the greater part of his adult life at the end, that makes sense to me because it's really about how he grew emotionally, not only despite of but also because of being an "Aspie". This is a very personal history, but also a great snapshot of the time and places that Tim Page grew up. At the same time, it's not so much directly about the condition of Aspergers as it is about him, so it is probably a good thing that they dropped the original subtitle "Growing Up with Undiagnosed Asperger's."

Note: this is adapted from my original Goodreads review.

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