My recent interest in alcohol consumption (sparked by the concern voiced by clinical researchers regarding my own consumption) led me to a book called The Wet and the Dry by Lawrence Osborne. Equal parts travelogue, memoir, and cross-cultural study, it recounts the author’s adventures during two years of drinking in the Islamic world. At times the drinking is easy; at others he goes for days unable to get his 6:10 p.m. fix (which often lasts for many hours and sometimes starts much earlier in the day). Toward the end, during a sojourn in Cairo at the height of the Islamist revolution, he writes that “what one does in a bar” is “contemplate death and the inconsequential things that come just before it.”
Briefly fascinated (all my fascinations are brief) by Osborne, whom the author note described as leading “a nomadic life,” I sought out an earlier book of his, called American Normal: The Hidden World of Asperger Syndrome. Although the book was either poorly written or poorly edited (probably both), I found it somewhat interesting. Asperger’s and autism have become even more fashionable in the 15 years since the book was published. One thing that Osborne points out is that the boys Hans Asperger first identified as having the syndrome exhibited a “primitive spitefulness.” Today’s American Aspies have a gentler, sanitized version of the condition, or so they and their families and supporters would have us believe.
Having read as much as I care to in both these books, I will now return them to their respective libraries and wait for the next fascination to strike.