Not Even Wrong A Father's Journey into the Lost History of Autism

Paul Collins

Bloomsbury USA




256 Pages


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

Not Even Wrong picks up where the national bestseller Sixpence House left off, bringing Paul Collins' trademark blend of personal observation and forgotten stories from history to bear on his son's autism. As Morgan is diagnosed, Collins realizes who he has been drawn to one unusual tale: that of Peter the wild boy, the nearly mute feral child discovered in the Black Forest in 1725, who went on to caper through Kensington Palace, meet Swift and Defoe, and haunt the births of Romanticism, zoology, and even the theory of evolution. Interweaving Peter's story with his own family's struggle with Morgan's development, Collins delves into the lives of autists, finding their traces in numerous tales of solitary eccentrics who made astonishing scientific advances. His quest takes him from an English churchyard to the Seattle labs of Microsoft, from a Wisconsin prison cell block to the streets of Vienna, and to the offices of scientists leading the inquiry into this only faintly understood disorder.

And finally he begins to see the outlines of a story that connects the life of a wild boy to his own life, and to Morgan's.

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.


Praise for Not Even Wrong

"Collins elucidates, with great compassion, what it means to be 'normal' and what it means to be human."—Los Angeles Times

"Paul Collins reminds us that the way 'we' conventionally think may be just one very inaccurate take on the reality that surrounds us . . . Brave man. Brave book."—The Washington Post Book World

"Paul Collins brilliantly interweaves the story of his son's autism with tales of other troubled and eccentric outsiders, from Peter the Wild Boy to Eddie Van Halen."—Vanity Fair

"Few things are more heartbreaking than learning that your child is destined to be an outsider . . . Collins conveys this sad truth beautifully. A fascinating portrait of his son."—Entertainment Weekly

"Not Even Wrong describes the arcane, harrowing, and turbulent world of autism, through historical figures and the author's own afflicted child. The account is both sympathetic and compelling. Anyone who labors to raise and protect an intractably complicated, misfit child will recognize the territory, and everyone else stands the chance of being broadened by the author's intelligent, humane, and deeply felt testimony."—Alec Wilkinson, author of My Mentor: A Young Man's Friendship with William Maxwell

"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 . . . 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."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Paul Collins

  • Paul Collins is the author of Sixpence House and Banvard's Folly: Thirteen Tales of People Who Didn't Change the World. He edits the Collins Library for McSweeney's Books lives in Iowa with his wife and son.