Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet

Born on a Blue Day is a memoir of an autistic savant. I heard of Daniel Tammet a few years ago, although I don't know that I ever knew his name. I heard on the news that some guy had recited the number pi for a little over 5 hours. He had memorized and recited 22,500 digits, setting a new world record. A couple of months ago, 60 Minutes ran a special on Daniel. What makes him unique among savants is that he lacks most of the debilitating problems that savants usually have. I was extremely interested in this guy, and so I was excited to hear that he had a book coming out.

Daniel's discussions about math and how he visualizes numbers were detailed and interesting. Synesthesia, a neurological condition in which two or more sense are coupled, informs how Daniel thinks about numbers and is the key to his mathematical abilities. But these abilities are only a small part of the book.

Born on a Blue Day is written in a very straightforward manner. Because of this, there were times when it reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. However, there are not many linguistic flourishes. But it is quite interesting. I was intrigued by Daniel's thoughts on languages, and how he is able to learn them so quickly. He learned Icelandic, which is considered to be an extremely difficult language, in one week.

Daniel has amazing insights into his childhood, and what growing up with Asperger Syndrome meant on a day-to-day basis. I enjoyed seeing the ways in which he learned to cope with Aspergers and eventually lead a very fulfilling life.


Nathan said...

He's Icelandic? I've always wanted to be Icelandic.

Carlton said...

No, he is British. He just decided to learn Icelandic because it is considered so difficult.
But I agree...being Icelandic would be cool.