Book discussion - The Quarry - Discussion of Chapter 2


Very specific interests and analytical thinking are common (though by no means necessary) symptoms of an autism spectrum disorder. Obviously many other people can and do have those characteristics, but when thought in the context of an autism, it’s one of the better (in the eyes of some people, even “cooler”) forms of repetitive behavior (unlike stimming or rituals, which can be pretty nasty).

It’s the focus on these narrow interests that sometimes leads AS people to become really good at something, which has created the myth of autism as a superpower which makes you a super genius. Again, it’s just a mind that works a bit differently; it can be an advantage (and I use it for all its worth, personally), but for the most part it causes social difficulties, which can fortunately be quite well managed if you learn (with proper support) to properly adjust, and even better managed if everyone else understands what autism is and isn’t and maybe even learns how to interact wíth autistic people (which can’t be counted on, hence why it’s mainly our own problem to deal with).

I hope people aren’t bored by all this talk about AS - it’s just that so far in the book, it has been a very relevant aspect of our narrator and not much has actually happened yet, so I keep coming back to that. Plus, maybe people will learn something new that not only helps them understand Kit and the book but us real people. If you already know this or don’t care to read about it, feel free to skip my posts. :smiley: I just want to be sure I don’t take the focus away from other matters people might want to discuss (tell me straight, I don’t get hints).

Well said. I can put up an amazingly good front in social situations if certain conditions are met.

  1. it’s at a place I already am familiar with (one previous visit not enough)
  2. there are less than 12 people (on top of me)
    -> If it’s 1-on-1, it has to be someone I know extremely well (boyfriend/mom/a close sibling, typically)
    -> If there are 2-3 people, I know all people previously, but only one has to be known extremely well
    -> If there are 4-6 people, I know at least 2 people comfortably and I know others previously, except max. 2 new people
    -> If there are 7-12 people, I have to know one person extremely well or 2-3 comfortably, plus I have to know at least half the people there
  3. I’ve rehearsed lines (on a particular topic, or just chit chat)
  4. I have arranged it so (either my location, or otherwise) that I have to talk as little as possible without it seeming like I’m avoiding talking
  5. I have a place to go and hide for a few minutes every 15-30 minutes (bathroom, usually)

In these perfect circumstances, to new eyes, I can seem to be social (meaning here that I go and socialize with others), talkative (just the right amount), well-versed in casual chit-chat, friendly and a person who smiles and makes eye contact. I’m none of these things.

If some of these conditions aren’t met, I can still seem alright. I’ve learned most proper reactions, etiquette and facial expressions, but I can’t always remember to smile (I have to keep reminding myself) and I sometimes react with the wrong amount of surprise or worry (the latter being a hard expression for me to simulate), but I’m good at looking like I’m listening (not that I’m not actually listening). I can usually hide most of my stimming in public and channel it into other activity I do with my hands, and I can hide some compulsive behavior as well (some I don’t even use energy trying to hide, because they don’t seem so strange to people). I’m bad at body language; it’s not that I don’t use any, but I tend to start flailing my hands around pointlessly so I try to not move. I’ve learned not to pointlessly argue with people when I know they’re wrong and could prove it, because it makes me seem petty and a party-pooper, though I sometimes can’t help myself.

It’s hard for me to follow some subtle cues, especially if there are a lot of people and my senses are overloaded, and that’s where I often get caught up and slip up with something else. I can be following a conversation between 4 people, analysing their body language, expressions, sarcasm, inside-jokes… and suddenly I notice I’ve forgotten to keep my posture and facial expression in check and and huddled in a weird position, with my mouth open, looking kind of spaced. Or if I’m having a really exciting conversation, I can start stimming with my hands (shaking them up and down - think about the stereotypical autistic movement, yet a little lighter and without the back-and-forth) without noticing. The longer I have to socialize, the more I show nervous symptoms, like picking my hair and skin.

Of course, sometimes I stop trying, and hallelujah it’s such a relief. Like the last time at school, during the first week and with my post-rehab blues, during day 4 of the week I sort of stopped giving a damn when I was around my classmates (7 people who I’ve known 1,5 years and am relatively comfortable with most of them, having slowly yet surely let my guard down a little) and just didn’t even pretend to be a normal, social being but huddled around and didn’t force smiles and didn’t make effort to strike up conversation. Still talked with them sometimes. And they cared. So that’s nice. Not that I should never make an effort, but there’s middle ground there where I don’t have to use all my energy to act so normally yet still make an effort to make myself understood and understand others.


Seems to me like it’s easier to just not bother with social situations. That’s always worked for me.


That’s always Plan A! But that doesn’t really work for school and work, though, does it? I doubt I’ll get such an ideal job right off the bat that I don’t have to bother with social situations. I’m not talking about parties here, god no, I’m talking about school (and later work) and obligatory events like my sister’s wedding. Sometimes you get ambushed, like when I wanted to quickly visit my father and he failed to inform me there would be three people I’ve never met there (in addition to his girlfriend, a person who I just barely know). And then dad left me with his girlfriend and a stranger, alone, for like 20 minutes in the house. I was just picking up a computer part. Life throw these things your way sometimes, it seems you can’t always help it.

Plus, I’d like to be better at social situations. That doesn’t mean I want more of them, just that it would be nice to not feel so anxious, and not bothering with social situations hasn’t helped me with that so far. I also like having friends, which is like having a partner minus the sex (though there can be sex too); having 1-3 good friends would be ideal. So far, no dice. Why are friendships so hard to start and maintain, and relationships easy? Is it the sex?

Book Discussion - The Quarry - Chapter 3

When people bother you, there are times to act, and there are times to give less fucks.

None of us are in complete control over our meatbags. But all of us exert complete control over how much time we worry about what other people think of us.

Not only am I not bored, I’m thankful. Frankly, the AS-narrator angle is the only thing this book has going for it so far. And, if it weren’t for the different perspectives of you, Iggy, Donald (always, Donald), and that Penguin fella, I’d be at-risk to not finish this book.

As I said to my last spouse, “Don’t take my obstreperous nature in a negative way.” :slight_smile:


You say that, but why do I have such a hard time not wasting time thinking about what other people think of me? I guess nobody said it would be easy, even if it is up to us to not give a fuck.

That’s good! I’ve never done this book group thing before, but I’m starting to see what it’s for. It’s not just gussing over that latest, greatest book with similar-minded people or (at the other end of the spectrum) strict literary analysis - it’s giving chances to books we wouldn’t otherwise read, it’s hearing views of points we otherwise would miss and it’s about learning all kinds of new things. :slight_smile:


Read more Alan Watts. Thats my answer. Helped me a lot. I listen to the audio tapes too. Also, medical marijuana helps.


I think the side-subjects of this discussion is going to be of much more interest that the discussion of the book itself - which is, by the author’s own admission, a minor work of his. I am far more interested in what I can learn from all of you. Plus, y’know, chewing the fat with people with different experiences/viewpoints is fun and illuminating. The book isn’t much more than a jumping off point.

Although - I am a terrible skimmer of books, so it’s good to read the comments and see that people picked up on stuff that I didn’t. :smile:


I say that, and I also admit I have a hard time not exercising as much as I should, and not eating as healthy as I should.

Surely, eating and exercising are within my control, yet I’m kind of wretched at controlling my behavior to conform to societal expectations of how I should be.

Does the problem lie in my non-compliance with the expectations of others, or do others not allow enough room for people who behave like I do?

I find there’s a fine line between I could do better and fuck them.

Embracing the fact that we are all mutants is the core principle that attracts me to the b01ng b01ng crowd.


There’s also the state of the house. Reminds me a bit of Grey Gardens.


The house is my second favorite character (after Kit) so far.

I have nothing to add to that, just QFT.


I don’t know if people in general are. I’m not. :slight_smile: I’m pretty sure I’m on the spectrum. I was aware of special interests and seriously have them just didn’t realize the analysis thing was a part of that. I haven’t heard people mentioning that part before but now that I think about it, several friends on the AS have very similar tendencies.

I’ve kind of avoided doing any major research on autism so I’m not terribly in the know.

The interesting part of the reason I’ve avoided researching it is also part of why I nearly voted against The Curious Case. A lot of information on autism that’s out there is done without (or blatantly contradicting) the experience of people who actually are autistic.

With organizations like Autism Speaks blatantly sympathizing with parents who murder their autistic kids, it’s an emotional minefield. I tend to specifically avoid caretakers’ and ABA proponents’ POVs.

In contrast, it’s really awesome discussing these things with people who have the same or similar experiences.

Well, maybe. The Discordian phrase is “What other people think of you is none of your business” but there can be limiting factors to an individual’s level of control particularly if they have social anxiety.

On the other hand, I don’t precisely believe in free will (too complicated a subject to get into in depth here but it’s not to say we’re not responsible for a certain extent of our actions).


In addition to what Raita said, here’s something I’ve experienced. Totally avoiding social situations has made my social anxiety and everything noticeably worse. I’m not avoiding social situations voluntarily, which is part of it (despite a BS and grad school in an in-demand scientific field I am apparently unemployable), of course. In better times, I looked forward to the occasional party or other social gathering; those things raised the bar for me and made everyday situations not just more tolerable but practically carefree. Now, although I’m in fact far better at interacting with strangers than ever, I dread and avoid it.

But speaking of that…

Having a lot of free time in recent years I’ve taken up running, as I’ve always been out of shape and unhealthy and running is kind of the only exercise you can do by yourself, anywhere, without expensive equipment (though my running shoes are expensive because I injured myself wearing the wrong shoes). And there’s nothing else to do that doesn’t cost money (kind of like working out in prison).

At first, I was embarrassed and literally ran in the middle of the night so nobody would see me - for quite a long time. I learned not to care by regularly running barefoot on the beach at low tide when I lived in Huntington Beach (it was just too wonderful not to take advantage of), and now when the weather is bad (which is all winter and some of fall and spring here in Buffalo) I run on an indoor track at the university down the street from where I live which sometimes is very busy.

I am still flabby and self-conscious but I wear short-inseam running shorts, and shirts that are honestly slightly too tight but on the track I just don’t care… I know people look at me (and I look at them, it’s fun) but doing this over and over has really taught me a lot. Namely that in most situations in public, other people really don’t care about you and if they do, they’re assholes (especially at the gym where if you judge other people who are trying to improve themselves you’re a dick) and don’t matter.

It took a place with a special unspoken code of honor - you don’t talk to people who are working out unless you are close friends already - for me to feel free from the constant worrying about what people think. That, and just doing it over and over.

So my point was, exercising - which I largely started doing because of societal expectations although to be honest I have not really lost significant weight - helped me in unexpected ways by providing a way to practice feeling comfortable and confident in public in close proximity to people.

But, as that is not really a social thing, I don’t get the practice that parties etc. provide. So like I said at the beginning, I still do dread and avoid anything that involves actually interacting with people.

In fact, relatedly, boing boing is something I do to help with this. I used to feel compelled to comment (on slashdot, then reddit, sometimes elsewhere) but then I’d be afraid to read the replies. Reddit especially made me so anxious I quit it completely a couple years ago (for other reasons too, I am better off without it). I did that on boing boing too back 7-8 years ago when I was first around in the comments, but because of the unique community here, over time I got comfortable with it. Although I do still sometimes not read replies here, actually.

Well - nobody’s probably surprised that this reply from me turned into something so long and so tangential to even the broader AS topic we’re discussing, but there it is anyway, some thoughts on social anxiety.


The new discussion thread for Chapter 3 has been opened.


You’ve given a personal example that shows the scene with Kit choosing to sit in a room with people but not engage in conversation is accurately portrayed.


Sooooo behind. But this chapter was full of descriptions and character building it seemed. We get more of a sense of how Kit navigates the world, and how people are worried over him. The whole not knowing his mom thing is interesting. I’m betting it’s someone they all know, and maybe that’s connected to the video they are all looking for somehow? It would be crazy if it was a birth video… but Haze seems a bit worried about it hurting his reputation. I liked Kit’s fascination with the highway and the traffic patterns… and now I want to go live on a moor.

Sorry, I’ll be more on the ball with chapter 3. This past week was crazy.


That would be difficult.


I’m realizing there’s a lot of “rotting from the inside” going on here. The house. Guy. The friendships, apparently. The father-son relationship, which it seems has always been pretty “rotten.” The country? alluded to in the various political talk, as well as Kit’s commentary on his experience with “workfare.”


I think there’s a fair bit of Banks’ politics in there. To put it mildly.


this may be the most astute observation so far

I agree with your take on the politics; but also, think about the physical space, the countryside: it’s being swallowed up by a quarry.

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