Monday, June 21, 2010

Mozart and the Whale

If anyone wants to be able to understand Aspergians in general (or me in particular), I highly recommend Jerry Newport’s Mozart and the Whale. They are both Aspergian and married, divorced, then remarried. As I read their life stories, I recognized an awful lot of myself. Hollywood made a rather good movie by the same title starring Josh Hartnett and Radha Mitchell.

The title of the book comes from the authors’ alter egos. Mrs. Newport always identified with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s older sister, Maria Anna Mozart. Some reports say that her musical gifts equaled her brother’s, but her father never supported her; he was eager to marry her off and she wound up supporting herself giving piano lessons. Jerry Newport’s alter ego was the Disney cartoon character, Willy the Whale, who sings opera. I never thought the story of a Disney cartoon character would almost move me to tears, but that one certainly did. You see, Willy the Whale develops into a a great opera singer, but an evil scientist concludes that a whale could never sing opera and winds up harpooning Willy in an effort to rescue the real opera singer that the scientist believes must be held hostage somewhere in Willy’s digestive tract. The Disney cartoon speculates that Willy must be singing in the sweet hereafter. (I refuse to debate the question of
whether there is a hereafter for gigantic sea-dwelling mammals.)

One coincidence in the book made me chuckle. Jerry Newport attended the University of Michigan several years before I attended Ohio State. (I’ll try not to hate him for that.) Another coincidence simply astounded me. In the last months of 1999, Jerry Newport attempted suicide by swallowing pills.

Anyone familiar with the motion picture Mozart and the Whale, produced by Steven Spielberg, can appreciate the irony that, while Mrs. Newport was confined to a psychiatric ward (another stunning coincidence), one of her therapists gently told her that she needed to accept the fact that she was only imagining having had meetings with Steven Spielberg about producing a film based upon her and her husband’s life story.

I give Mozart and the Whale my highest possible recommendation.

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