Lists

Everyone is familiar with the autistic child lining up his toys or food or some other object. But did you know that making lists is a kind of “lining up”?

Well, list-making was the kind of lining up I did as a child. I made lists of sharks, drew pictures of sharks and fish in panels and labeled them (thus making visual lists), and I made lists of orchids. Whatever was my obsession at the time, I made lists of them.

But here’s the funny thing–I haven’t actually ever stopped making lists.

I have a collection of short stories I have written (only a few have been published). Half of those short stories either contain lists or are lists. More than that, today I realized that my tendency to list features or objects in my sentences is itself a form of list-making. That is, listing is part of my aesthetic!

Here are a few examples from a novel I’m currently working on:

“dressed mostly in browns, greens, grays, and black,”

“It seemed as though half the activity in the marketplace involved stealing, chasing, catching, or escaping.”

“The air was cooler than the morning before, and smelled crisp, clean and—temporarily, at least—not of manure, trash, and people’s waste.”

“They arrived at last, drawn in the last few yards by the smells of breads, sweet breads, sweet cakes, sausages, cooking meat, and spices.”

These are all kinds of “internal lists.”

So if your child likes to make lists–or if you love to make lists yourself–congratulations, you have an autistic trait. It does of course make perfect sense that listing would be one of those traits, since it is a form of lining things up. It’s just a literature lining of things up.

It might be interesting to consider the styles of certain authors and see how dominant listning is in them.

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