Cover image for Not even wrong : adventures in autism
Not even wrong : adventures in autism
Collins, Paul, 1969-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Bloomsbury : Distributed to the trade by Holtzbrinck Publishers, [2004]

Physical Description:
245 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
The wild boy -- Fallen from the sky -- Dear chromophone -- Safety in numbers.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RJ506.A9 C645 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
RJ506.A9 C645 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



When Paul Collins's son Morgan was two years old, he could read, spell, and perform multiplication tables in his head...but not answer to his own name. A casual conversation-or any social interaction that the rest of us take for granted-will, for Morgan, always be a cryptogram that must be painstakingly decoded. He lives in a world of his own: an autistic world.

In Not Even Wrong , Paul Collins melds a memoir of his son's autism with a journey into this realm of permanent outsiders. Examining forgotten geniuses and obscure medical archives, Collins's travels take him from an English churchyard to the Seattle labs of Microsoft, and from a Wisconsin prison cell block to the streets of Vienna. It is a story that reaches from a lonely clearing in the Black Forest into the London palace of King George I, from Defoe and Swift to the discovery of evolution; from the modern dawn of the computer revolution to, in the end, the author's own household.

Not Even Wrong is a haunting journey into the borderlands of neurology - a meditation on what "normal" is, and how human genius comes to us in strange and wondrous forms.

Author Notes

Paul Collins is a writer specializing in history, memoir, and unusual antiquarian literature. His nine books have been translated into eleven languages, and include Not Even Wrong: A Father's Journey Into the Lost History of Autism (2004), and The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars (2011). He is a 2009 recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Nonfiction.

In 2014, his non-fiction work (Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America's First Sensational Murder Mystery) was listed on the New York Times bestseller list. Collins also teaches creative nonfiction as an associate professor in the MFA program at Portland State University.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

By the age of two, Collins' son, Morgan, could read and multiply but would not respond to his own name. When he was diagnosed with autism, Collins and his wife resisted then slowly let go of their denial and set about getting Morgan the help he would need to develop fully. Collins also set out to explore the world of autistics, social outsiders often as profoundly misunderstood as Peter the Wild Boy, a nearly mute feral child discovered in the Black Forest in 1725. In his search through an English courtyard, the streets of Vienna, a Wisconsin prison, and Microsoft's offices in Seattle, Collins recounts the history of psychological and neurological theories, controversial interpretations and treatments of autism, and the pantheon of geniuses and eccentrics who were diagnosed as or suspected of being autistic. He intersperses his research with accounts of his attempts to connect with his son, to draw him out of the enigmatic world of autism. This is a thoroughly touching and engaging look at autism through the ages, told from the perspective of a loving father. --Vanessa Bush Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Rare is the book that can wring more pathos out of its subject than one written by a parent about his or her disadvantaged child. In this slim, reflective memoir, the author of Sixpence House takes readers from the moment he and his wife learn their three-year-old son Morgan is autistic through the long and often agonizing attempt to simply communicate with him. Morgan is advanced, having learned the alphabet at age one. It isn't much longer before he's reading medical texts and is a computer whiz. But he refuses to communicate verbally and barely acknowledges his parents' presence. A lover of arcana, Collins refers back to what may have been the first studied case of autism, concerning the Wild Child of Hamelin, a young boy found wandering the Black Forest in 1725, who acted more animal than human and was later a celebrated oddity at the British court, inspiring everyone from Daniel Defoe to Jonathan Swift. Collins spends inordinate amounts of time investigating the Wild Child, which may frustrate readers, since the way Collins delineates his attempts to break into Morgan's hermetic existence of math and music (two of the most common obsessions with autists and savants) is so fascinating. At one point, to stop Morgan from yelling, Collins simply gives him a bus schedule, which Morgan then intently studies, lost in his happy universe of numbers. This is a smart, compassionate study of autists-"the ultimate square pegs"-and how they see the world, darkly, through the thickets of their own genius. Agent, Michelle Tessler. (Apr.) Forecast: An author tour through the Pacific Northwest might generate interest, along with national media and an online promotion at (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Memoirist Collins (Sixpence House) intertwines the history of ASD with his own personal connection to autism, his son Morgan. Succeeding where Lawrence Osborne's recent American Normal failed, Collins gathers a variety of historical ASD accounts without passing judgment or linking them to a single theme, except that these conditions were not detected some 60 years ago by Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger and his better-known contemporary, fellow Austrian Leo Kanner. Collins provides vivid descriptions of Peter the Wild Boy (discovered in Hanover in 1725) and the work and offices of Asperger, Bruno Bettelheim, and many others to impress upon us that ASD is neither a new concept nor one that we understand very well. In depicting his son, Collins draws wonderful connections to the critical role of genetics (at one point brilliantly referring to a genetic "kick me" sign) and the day-to-day reality that this life brings. Exceptionally well written and a joy to read, this book is highly recommended for public libraries and academic libraries with ASD and disability collections. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Part 1 The Wild Boyp. 1
Part 2 Fallen from the Skyp. 59
Part 3 Dear Chromophonep. 111
Part 4 Safety in Numbersp. 163
Further Readingp. 230
Sourcesp. 233
Acknowledgmentsp. 245