Thursday, May 12, 2011

Selective Blindness: You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know

You Don't Look Like Anyone I KnowHeather Seller's memoir, You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know, concentrates on the confusion and isolation caused by her prosopagnosia, a rare condition the prevents her from recognizing faces.  As an adult, she often accidentally insults friends and co-workers by ignoring them when they meet, or by constantly re-introducing herself.  Even her closest intimates can confound her; she cannot recognize her step-sons when picking them up, and often startles at the sight of a strange man in her house, before he identifies himself as her husband.

Seller's explanation for why it took her until her forties to realize she had a problem lies in her childhood, where she moved back and forth between an alcoholic father and a perhaps schizophrenic mother.  The family explanation for her problems with her situation was that she was crazy, and her frequent confusion seemed only a small part of the chaotic environment she found herself in.  Reading her stories, I did often worry for her sanity; everyone does "crazy" stuff sometimes, but usually we can identify it; Seller's doesn't seem able to differentiate when she is reacting strangely from when she is handling life appropriately.  She addresses some of the problems with memoirs directly; how everyone constructs stories of their lives from the pieces available, and sometimes we choose very carefully to fit the pieces to the story we want to tell, either to ourselves or to the peers we are sharing our past with.

I don't completely feel I understand what was happening in Florida as she grew up, and I'm still baffled by her relationship with her (sort-of-ex-)husband, but Sellers has a deft hand with words and narrative that make this a quick and engrossing read.  B-


kmitcham said...

NPR had a brief bot on someone with that condition I won't even try to spell. It was... pointless. Th idea is interesting, though.

Beth said...

It was interesting how long it took her to realize she had a problem; she just figured she was insane. She has a lot of problems recognizing insanity because her childhood was spent among the insane; she never learned where the boundaries of sanity are.