Polaroids hold a lot of detail, but at a remove. The intricacy isn’t immediate. Whole worlds are caged by those small frames. You can’t see that at first. But scan them into a computer, enlarge them 200 percent, and —
“It was like hacking through the jungle and finding El Dorado,” Joe says. “Like stumbling on Tutankhamun’s grave.”
The history of how autism was discovered, how the term entered the vocabulary of psychological expertise and also of everyday speech, and how its identity has evolved has been told many times. Chloe Silverman’s 2012 book, “Understanding Autism,” is the most sensitive account by an academic historian, and Steve Silberman’s best-selling work “NeuroTribes” (2015) is a deep history of autism, which ends up as a discussion of how we ought to think about it today. Now comes “In a Different Key: The Story of Autism,” by John Donvan and Caren Zucker (Crown). The authors are journalists, and, like many writers on the subject, they have a personal interest in autism. Donvan has a severely autistic brother-in-law. Zucker’s son has autism, and so does a grandson of Robert MacNeil, a former anchor of “PBS NewsHour,” for which Zucker produced a series of programs on the condition. Appropriately, a major focus of the book is on autism in the family and the changing historical role of parents of autistic children. “In a Different Key” is a story about autism as it has passed through largely American institutions, shaped not only by psychiatrists and psychologists but by parents, schools, politicians, and lawyers. It shows how, in turn, the condition acquired a powerful capacity both to change those institutions and to challenge our notions of what is pathological and what is normal.
Early on in Les Blank’s 1980 short documentary film Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, the star says in his unmistakable Bavarian-inflected English: “I’m quite convinced that cooking is the only alternative to filmmaking.” But almost as quickly as Herzog makes this bold if earnest assertion, he qualifies it: “Maybe there’s also another alternative: That’s walking on foot.” Several years before Blank’s documentary—in which Herzog famously eats his own leather shoe, expertly cooked by himself and chef Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, to make good on a wager with Errol Morris—the German filmmaker had entertained another, equally extreme proposition. In an attempt somehow to forestall what appeared to be the imminent death of Lotte Eisner, the great historian of Weimar cinema and biographer of Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau, he would walk from Munich to Paris in exactly three weeks in late autumn 1974.
On the face of it E. J. Dionne Jr. and Matt K. Lewis could hardly be more different. Dionne is a much-garlanded member of the liberal establishment — a fellow of the Brookings Institution, a Washington Post columnist and a fixture on big media. Lewis is a product of the conservative counterestablishment as reinvented by the Internet revolution. He writes regularly for The Caller, as well as The Week and The Daily Beast, and records a weekly podcast, “Matt Lewis and the News.” But they both agree that the buffoonery on the right is bad not just for conservatism but for America.
Vegetarianism may seem straightforward, but when you get down to the scientific details, it becomes less clear. With advancements in food technology, it’s likely to get even more confusing.