Claire Danes is a good thing. Apart from dying a truly horrible and unforgivably anachronistic death in Armstrong’s 1994 Little Women, Danes’ performances have been mostly quite remarkable: I also remember reading once that she has a trapeze in her loft apartment, about which no more really needs to be said.
Temple Grandin is a good thing to the point of legend. Granted, an air of horrible and anachronistic death does tend to hang about her for professional reasons — she’s a world expert on cattle-handling and slaughter — but her enduring and captivating renown comes from her insight into the autistic mind. In her seminal autobiography Emergence: Labeled Autistic, Grandin chronicles her tumultuous childhood and early adulthood (and Grandin is not a little bit autistic — she’s full-blown, Kanner-sits-down-looking-smug-and-informs-the-parents-that-he-doesn’t-need-to-check-the-manual autistic. You know, if Smokey the Magnificent was the size of a marble Temple Grandin would be forty miles away and bigger than a house: that kind of autistic). Then Oliver Sacks added his own not inconsiderable insight in a book he titled using one of Grandin’s own felicitous descriptions, An Anthropologist on Mars.
Betty heard Temple Grandin speak once, an experience that was up there with the greatest brushes with greatness Betty has ever had (these would include The Lads doing an encore at Parachute against all known rules, and having breakfast with Don Carson while he spoke pointedly about his single and most eligible son, so readers need not fear that they are overestimating the significance of this). There was a rubbish truck outside during the keynote address, and Temple Grandin is fascinated with rubbish trucks, and stopped her talk several times to check out the window; and then she told the story of the flooded library and cried. Betty’s mother personally asked Temple an autism-related question during the break, and Temple answered it straightforwardly, and then walked off. Thrills, srsly.
Serendipitously, HBO (also a good thing: see Wit) are making a movie about all of this, mostly. It will come out in 2010.