Thursday, December 13, 2007

I am being constantly bombarded with brilliant ideas. I’ve thought of an idea for Professor Michael Fitzgerald’s next book about eccentric geniuses. How’s this for a title?

Socks and Sandals: is there a link between eccentricity in footwear and high intellectual ability?

The book should attempt to explain why the wearing of socks with sandals, a violation of fashion codes in most cultures of the world, appears to be unusually common amongst professors of philosophy, academics in general, eccentric geniuses who are suspected of having Asperger syndrome and (most puzzlingly) all kinds of German-born people.

Is fashionblindness commonly found within German-speaking populations, and does it have a genetic causality? Is there evidence supporting the commonly-held belief that sensory hypersensitivity is a common characteristic of the intellectually gifted, and may this explain sock and sandal syndrome? Is Asperger syndrome the best explanation for most cases of sock and sandal syndrome? How can we explain the middle-aged female lecturer that I had as an undergraduate student in the 1980s who wore thongs (flip-flops to the British) with a loose-fitting dress to work every day, or the professor in an Australian “sandstone” university that I idolized who turned up to give lectures wearing shorts and socks and sandals?

The eccentric genius mathematician Paul Erdos was known for wearing sandals with socks (Pickover 1998). The controversial former chess world champion genius Bobby Fischer has been photographed wearing socks with sandals. The controversial computer software genius activist Richard Stallman has been reported to have given a lecture wearing socks but no shoes (Jones 2006). Physics genius Albert Einstein liked to wear comfortable, casual attire, including sandals (James 2003), and one of the fashion violations that Einstein is famous for was his wearing of comfy slippers with flowers on them to his work at a patents office. Einstein was also known for wearing shoes with no socks. How can we explain this mysterious connection between the feet and the brain?


James, Ioan (2003) Singular scientists. Journal of the Royal society of Medicine. January 2003. Vol. 96, number 1, p. 36-39.

Jones, K. C. (2006) A rare glimpse into Richard Stallman’s world. TechWeb News. InformationWeek. January 6th 2006.

Pickover, Clifford A. (1998) Strange brains and genius: the secret lives of eccentric scientists and madmen. Plenum, 1998.

Robert Bobby Fischer (accessed 2007)

copyright Lili Marlene 2007
There are now 117 names on my lists of famous or important people diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition or subject of published speculation about whether they are/were on the autistic spectrum. There's no rest for the obsessive.
The long and arduous debate about Mozart and Tourette syndrome: some references

You can call him a Touretter or an Aspergian, an ADHDer or you could even call him a maniac, but you couldn't call him normal, because turning cartwheels while miaowing like a cat is not really considered normal behaviour. Whatever Mozart had, did the legendary pianist Glenn Gould have it too? The two extraordinary musicians had some interesting characteristics in common: see my short article about them from October 2007.

As you can see from these references, Simkin's 1992 paper in the BMJ was not the first or only suggestion that Mozart may have had Tourette syndrome, others had published such speculation as early as 1983 and 1991.

Ashoori, Aidin, Jankovic, Joseph (2007) Mozart’s movements and behaviour: a case of Tourette’s syndrome? Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. 2007.
[argues that the evidence that Mozart had Asperger syndrome, autism, Tourette syndrome and some other neurological and psychiatric conditions is lacking]

Davies, Peter J. (1993) Mozart’s scatological disorder. [letter] British Medical Journal. Vol. 306 number 6876. 20th December 1993. p.521-522.
[can be read through PubMed Central]

Fog, R., Regeur, L. (1983) Did W.A. Mozart suffer from Tourette’s syndrome? World Congress of Psychiatry, Vienna, 1983.

Gunne, L. M. (1991) Hade Mozart Tourettes syndrome. [Did Mozart have Tourette syndrome?] Lakartidningen. December 11th 1991. Vol. 88 number 50. 4325-6.
[article in Swedish]

Heyworth, Martin F. (1993) Mozart’s scatological disorder. [letter] British Medical Journal. Vol. 306 number 6876. 20th December 1993. p.522.
[can be read through PubMed Central]

Karhausen, L. R. (1993) Mozart’s scatological disorder. [letter] British Medical Journal. Vol. 306 number 6876. 20th December 1993. p.522.
[can be read through PubMed Central]

Kammer, T. (2007) Mozart in the neurological department – who has the tic? Bogousslavsky J, Hennerici MG (eds) Neurological Disorders in Famous Artists - Part 2. Frontiers of Neurology and Neuroscience. 2007. vol 22, p. 184-192
[concludes that Mozart’s diagnosis of Tourette’s is implausible]

Sacks, Oliver (1992) Tourette’s syndrome and creativity. British Medical Journal. Vol. 305 number 6868. 19-26 December 1992. p.1515-1516.
[Sacks describes Simkins’ paper in the same issue of BMJ as “at least circumstantial evidence” but then writes that he does not find the case for Mozart having Tourette’s entirely convincing, Sacks claims there are two types of Tourette’s, stereotypical Tourette’s and “phantasmagoric” Tourette’s that can alter a person’s character and creativity, can be read through PubMed Central]

Simkin, Benjamin (1992) Mozart’s scatological disorder. British Medical Journal. Vol. 305 number 6868. 19-26 December 1992. p.1563-7.
[a fascinating paper describing Mozart’s hyperactivity, non-stop obsession with music, fascination with nonsense words, scatological letter-writing and what appear to be Tourette’s symptoms, can be read through PubMed Central]

Simkin, Benjamin (2001) Medical and musical byways of Mozartiana. Fithian Press. 2001.
[the book in which it is argued that Mozart had Tourette syndrome]

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Was the brilliant NZ author Janet Frame autistic?

Are you old enough to remember that movie "An Angel at my Table"?

Will there be a resurgence of interest in Janet Frame as an author and as a person?

(This blog article was added to in September 2008, minor alterations 2012)

Some books, papers, letters and articles about Janet Frame ONZ CBE

Frame, Janet (c. 1982) To the is-land. The Women’s Press, 1983.
[Frame’s first volume of autobiography]

Frame, Janet (1984) An angel at my table. The Women’s Press, 1984.
[Frame’s second volume of autobiography]

Frame, Janet (c. 1984) Envoy to the mirror city. The Women’s Press, 1985.
[Frame’s third volume of autobiography]

Posthumously published “Semi-autobiographical novel”
Frame, Janet (c. Janet Frame Literary Trust 2007) Towards another summer. Vintage Books, 2007.
[described as a semi-autobiographical novel written in 1963 but not previously published, in which Frame “wittily spoofs her own social gauchness” "It's a highly personal work that she did not want published until after her death."]

King, Michael (2000) Wrestling with the angel: a life of Janet Frame. Picador, 2000.
[on pages 417-418 can be found a revealing excerpt from a letter written by Frame in which she described and explained an example of behaviour that she had in common with her niece’s autistic daughter]

A recent article about Janet Frame
Campion, Jane (2008) In search of Janet Frame. The Guardian. January 19th 2008.[a brief article in which Campion recalls her meetings with Frame, giving some interesting insights into the way Frame lived and worked]

Janet Frame in the Wikipedia
Wikipedia contributors. (accessed 2007) Janet Frame. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Medical journal papers, journal letters and press articles about the posthumous diagnosis of “high-functioning autism” in 2007, or which mention this diagnosis
Abrahamson, Sarah (2007). Did Janet Frame have high-functioning autism? The New Zealand Medical Journal. October 12th 2007. Vol. 120 No. 1263.

Abrahamson, Sarah (2007) Author responds to criticism of her 'Did Janet Frame have high-functioning autism?' viewpoint article. [letter] The New Zealand Medical Journal. October 26th 2007. Vol. 120 No. 1264.

Autistic diagnosis proposed for Frame: celebrated author Janet Frame may have been autistic. (2007) The Press. October 12th 2007.

Cohen, David (2007) Autistic licence. New Zealand Listener. November 10-16 2007 Vol. 211 No. 3522.

Frizelle, Frank A. (2007) Peer review of NZMJ articles: issues raised after publication of the viewpoint article on Janet Frame. [editorial] The New Zealand Medical Journal. October 26th 2007. Vol. 120 No. 1264.

Hann, Arwen (2007) Autism claim draws fire from family, mum. The Press. October 22nd 2007.

Johnston, Martin (2007) Author Janet Frame suffered from “high functioning autism”. The New Zealand Herald. October 12th 2007.

Matthews, Philip (2008) Back on the page. The Press. July 26th 2008.
[about the posthumous publication of “Towards Another Summer” and other works by Frame, Pamela Gordon’s role as literary executor, and the autism controversy]

Oettli, Simone (2007) Janet Frame and autism? Response from a Frame scholar. The New Zealand Medical Journal. November 9th 2007, Vol. 120 No. 1265.

ONE News (2007) Frame autism claim rubbished by family. October 12th 2007.
[with a link to a clip of New Zealand TV coverage of this story]

Sharp, Iain (2007) Frame of mind. Sunday Star Times. Section C8 (books) October 21st 2007.
[gives Pamela Gordon’s view on the controversy, Frame’s literary executor and niece reveals that she has a daughter with “severe autism”]

Stace, Hilary (2007) Janet Frame and autism. [letter] The New Zealand Medical Journal. October 26th 2007. Vol. 120 No. 1264.

Stace, Hilary (2007) Was Janet Frame on the autistic spectrum? November 8th 2007.
[interesting blog article with comments]

Tramposch, B. (2007) "Diagnosis by mail": a response to the viewpoint article on Janet Frame. [letter] The New Zealand Medical Journal. October 26th 2007, Vol. 120 No. 1264.

Official web site of the Janet Frame Literary Trust
Janet Frame Estate Web Site
Literary Executor; Pamela Gordon

Australian radio interview with Pamela Gordon and publisher Andrew Wilkins
Koval, Ramona (2008) Posthumous publishing - Janet Frame's poetry. The Book Show. ABC Radio National. September 17th 2008.

Unchecked reference
Bragan, K. (1987) Medicine and literature: Janet Frame: contributions to psychiatry. New Zealand Medical Journal. February 11th 1987 Vol. 100 No. 817 p.70-73.
[unchecked reference – do not know if autism or AS mentioned]

Janet Frame ONZ CBE (1924-2004, changed name by deed poll to Nene Janet Paterson Clutha but known by original name, New Zealand writer of fiction, poetry and widely known for her three volumes of autobiography that the movie An Angel at my Table was based upon, Frame had a long history of voluntarily committing herself to psychiatric hospitals, diagnosed as schizophrenic, received many shock treatments, a lobotomy operation planned but was cancelled when Frame won a major New Zealand literary prize, some years later in a London mental hospital a psychiatrist classified her as sane expressing the opinion that she had never been schizophrenic, Frame went on to consult a psychoanalyst, family history of epilepsy and autism, in 2007 a posthumous diagnosis of “high-functioning autism” by a doctor of medicine sparked controversy, Frame was awarded a CBE in 1983, admitted to the Order of New Zealand in 1990, won a number of literary prizes and awards, thought to have been short-listed for the Nobel Prize in literature)

What is it about movie director Jane Campion and autism?
She directed two hugely popular movies; The Piano and An Angel at My Table. The lead character in The Piano, Ada McGrath the mute piano player, has been described as autistic, and it turns out that the real person that the other film was about, Janet Frame, was also autistic. Autism appears to be a cinematic theme that obviously fascinates the public, even if they aren't aware that this is what the movie is about.

Friday, December 07, 2007

It's the Mother of All Famous Apies Lists, it's Listzilla, it's Moby List, it's The Big One, it's a bloody great 32 page monster!
Pulitzer Prize winners diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition or subject of published speculation about whether they are or were on the autistic spectrum

W. H. Auden
(1907-1973, full name Wystan Hugh Auden, poet born in Britain, migrated to the US, described as one of the greatest 20th century writers, wrote reviews and essays, worked on documentaries, won a Pulitzer Prize For Poetry in 1948 for The age of anxiety: a baroque eclogue, set to be a mining engineer till his great love of words lead him to be a poet, Auden was homosexual and described his relationship with poet Chester Kallman as a marriage, not known for domestic neatness Auden “…kept a kitchen that could have doubled as a research facility for biological warfare.” (James 2007), Auden’s poem Funeral blues was featured in the 1994 movie Four weddings and a funeral, biographer Davenport–Hines claimed that Auden hinted in his loosely autobiographical A certain world: a commonplace book “that he considered himself mildly autistic as a child, and conceivably diagnosed himself as manifesting what is now known as Asperger’s syndrome.” (Davenport-Hines 2004), I found that the book A certain world contains selections of work of other writers in a dictionary format and has an entry with the heading “Children, Autistic” with a passage of writing under that heading by discredited autism “expert” Bruno Bettelheim)

Tim Page (b. 1954, music critic with the Washington Post, also a writer, producer and editor, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1997 in the category of criticism, reported to have been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome in his mid-40s)

Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974, American pilot who made the first lone continuous flight across the Atlantic Ocean, was awarded the Medal of Honor (USA) and the French Legion of Honor, and a Pulitzer Prize in 1954 in the category of biography or autobiography, Lindbergh is one of the famous people described in the book Genius genes: how Asperger talents changed the world)

Carl Sagan (1934-1996, American astronomer, astrobiologist and popularizer of science, advocate of the scientific/humanist/skeptical philosophy, won many awards including an Emmy and a Pulitzer Prize in 1978 in the category general non-fiction for the book The dragons of eden, Sagan is one of the famous people described in the book Asperger’s and self-esteem: insight and hope through famous role models)


Auden, Wystan Hugh (1970) A certain world: a commonplace book. Viking Press.

Davenport – Hines, Richard (2004) Auden’s life and character. [Chapter 2]
In Smith, Stan (2004) The Cambridge companion to W. H. Auden. Cambridge University Press.

[parts of this book available to read free through Google Book Search]

Fabrizio, Doug (2007) Parallel play. RadioWest. August 22nd 2007. KUER FM 90.
[Tim Page]

Fitzgerald, Michael, O’Brien, Brendan (2007) Genius genes: how Asperger talents changed the world. Autism Asperger Publishing Company, 2007.
[Archimedes, Newton, Henry Cavendish, Jefferson, Charles Babbage, Darwin, Gregor Mendel, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Nikola Tesla, David Hilbert, H.G. Wells, John B. Watson, Einstein, Bernard Montgomery (of Alamein), Charles de Gaulle, Alfred Kinsey, Norbert Wiener, Charles Lindbergh, Kurt Godel, Paul Erdos, parts of this book available to read free through Google Book Search]

James, Clive (2007) Cultural amnesia: notes in the margin of my time. Picador, 2007.

Ledgin, Norman (2002) Asperger’s and self-esteem: insight and hope through famous role models. Future Horizons, 2002.

[Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Orson Welles, Marie Curie, Carl Sagan, Glenn Gould, Mozart, Thomas Jefferson, Bela Bartok, Paul Robeson, Gregor Mendel, Oscar Levant, John Hartford, Temple Grandin, parts of the book available to read through Google Book Search]

MacDonald, Kate (2007) Living with Asperger’s syndrome: Tim Page. Late Night Live. October 10th 2007. ABC Radio National.

Page, Tim (2007) Parallel play: a lifetime of restless isolation explained. The New Yorker. August 20th 2007.

Pulitzer-winner on living with Asperger’s. All Things Considered. August 13th 2007. NPR.
[Tim Page]

Copyright Lili Marlene 2006, 2007.