Menagerie of False Truths Greg French, Australian author of the much-loved Frog Call, draws on his family history that embraced the whole spectrum of autism disorders, to deliver a delightfully quirky read which questions how we perceive reality and what society deems to be normal behaviour. Although presented as a fiction novel, Menagerie of False Truths is an autobiographical work, and asks two big questions:
What if you can't be understood? What if everything you hold to be true is an illusion? It also looks at the relevance of 'mental illness' to sport, art, and literature.
Author Greg French adds that "among the autistic traits I understand well are heightened senses and synaesthesia. But the most important thing is the persistence of memory. People like me cannot forget the elations and hurts of childhood. We relive them day after day, as if they are happening in the present. This is not necessarily a good thing. The ability to forget is part of what makes us human; it enables us to forgive ourselves and our friends, and to move forward."
Why Menagerie needed to be written
Mental disorders of any sort involve the affected person viewing the world in ways alien to other people, and seeing the world from alternative perspectives is fundamental to intellectual rigour. I have come to feel that people who have insights into such conditions and are able to articulate what they feel have a moral obligation to do so. Furthermore, for me and other people I know who have suffered from mental illness, the idea that our conditions are not to be talked about has always been a major part of the problem. It has just fuelled our sense of loneliness and isolation, and driven us further into depression. I am not blaming anyone for this - but I now know some of the ways the pain can be mitigated and I feel overwhelmingly obliged to do something about it. A big part of the reason for writing Menagerie of False Truths was to let people know the wisdom of Karen Blixen's words. All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story. It might even be the case that no sorrow can be borne if you are forbidden to discuss it. People with mental illness must be encouraged to give voice to their narratives. The voices, if honest, will sometimes be confronting, but families and the broader community must learn to listen. Compassionately. Without trivialising the issues. Without shame or embarrassment.
Greg French was born in 1962 and currently lives with his wife, Frances, and their two teenage children, Tom and Jane, on a large bush block near New Norfolk in Tasmania's Derwent Valley. His life is centred around wilderness activities, and he is well known in Australasian fly-fishing and bushwalking circles. In addition to natural history, Greg's other passions include language, literature, travel, physics and philosophy. He has written several books, including the much-loved Frog Call, and contributes regular articles and columns to various magazines, including FlyLife.
Menagerie of False Truths
Author: Greg French