Thursday, April 14, 2011

Critics of Sarah Abrahamson #2

New York Times
May 14, 2009

'The Visit' by David Gates

'Someone is bound to seize on [Towards Another Summer] as further evidence that Frame was not merely a gifted novelist but a “high-functioning” autistic. Sarah Abrahamson, a rehabilitation physician at Australia’s Queen Elizabeth Center, made this “diagnosis” in a 2007 article for the New Zealand Medical Journal, based on a reading of Frame’s autobiographies. “From an early age,” Abrahamson wrote, “Janet developed a strong interest in poetry, which was to become a lifelong interest. This appears to have been sufficiently intense to be considered an autistic ‘special interest.’ ” Poets and novelists, who persist in the obsessive-compulsive pursuit of those “interests” of theirs, may seize on that terrifying passage as further evidence that shrinks want to pathologize genius. (And who is Abrahamson to “Janet” her?)

Like every writer worth remembering, Frame exploits — or creates on the page, to be absolutely puristic about it — her peculiar sensibility, her private window into the universal. Has anyone not felt the strain on those hawsers connecting the self to its various social impersonations? A writer’s neurochemistry may matter to physicians, biographers and general-­purpose gossips, but it’s not the reader’s business. Frame’s sad, slyly comic fish-out-of-water story needs neither explanation nor excuse, and Grace’s aloneness isn’t a medical condition — it’s a human one.'

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