<< -- 2 -- Alice McVeigh CHARMINGLY UNSELFCONSCIOUS
Apparently, experts (including one Dr Treffert, largely quoted in this book, and an expert on savants) consider three characteristics key towards the fulfillment of a savant's potential: abnormal brain physiology (generally left-brain damage), driven obsessiveness towards developing their outstanding gift, and a selflessly supportive caregiver, willing to give more than most parents without receiving the emotional return that parents of normal children can count on. Tony DeBlois' passion for music is made clear throughout the book: nor is his mother exploiting him by allowing him to perform, because all the evidence is that he adores it. The abnormal brain physicology (fascinatingly, the right brain expands to fill the lack in the left brain) means that, while most people learn through their everyday conscious memory, savants use a deeper level of 'noncognitive or habit memory' which they can access automatically. Dr Treffert suggests that prodigious savants 'know' things they simply cannot have learned as most of us learn. Most people are shielded from access to this deepest memory field, probably because it would supply us with more information than we could deal with. The autistic person, such as Tony, can deal with it, because some parts of his brain function (the ones that deal with socialization or 'people' skills) have been blunted or dispensed with.
Despite the fascination of the topic, I found this book poorly written, something I suspect is down to Antonia Felix rather than to Janice DeBlois. Such howlers as 'Dr Bryant rushed to the table and caught the baby in the knick of time' (page 44), and 'At Berklee, Tony came out of his shell like never before' (page 186) are commonplace. There is hardly an infelicitous phrase that doesn't recur, and Rodale Press can hardly be said to have covered themselves with glory in the editorial domain. Nevertheless, I found myself completely humbled by this story of a charmingly unselfconscious young man and the mother who, with superhuman and glorious pigheadedness, refused (at every turn) to take 'no' for an answer.
For further reading, visit The
Tony DeBlois website and Dr Treffert's Savant Syndrome site.
Copyright © 28 October 2005
Alice McVeigh, Kent UK
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Some Kind of Genius :
The Extraordinary Journey of
Musical Savant Tony DeBlois
Janice DeBlois and Antonia Felix
Rodale Books, 2005
ISBN 1-59486-273-7, hardback, 242 pages