Allan Mayer’s Weblog

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I try not to blow my own trumpet- I know where it’s been!

Thanks to Simon Jarrett for doing it for me in my latest review on Amazon:

Tasting the Wind by Allan Mayer.

 I read this book after hearing Allan Mayer read some extracts from it at a conference – and I’m so glad that I did. Anyone who was around during the ‘big resttlement’ of the 1980s will cringe as they recognise many of the absurdities and contradictions of the time. These are beautifully captured by Mayer in the debates about language and ‘real choice’, the early experiments at social integration ending in tragi-comic farcical outcomes in pubs and shops and his hilarious minutes of residential home staff meetings. He also gives a riveting portrayal of the utterly, bizarre, other-planetary world of the long-stay hospital: that asylum where people were anything but safe, the hospital were people weren’t ill and didn’t get treated, the NHS facility where most of the staff were more institutionalised than the patients. If you weren’t around at that time then this book will give you a searingly honest portrayal of what it was like, including the mistakes and the new absurdities perpetrated by some of the well-meaning but at times over-zealous ‘liberators’ who supported people out of the hospitals. However the book is much more than this. At different times it had me shaking with laughter, welling up with tears and consumed by rage – sometimes within the space of one or two pages. He is a gifted comic writer, but never at the expense of the people of he is writing about and has created a world of believable, rounded people, including the people with severe learning disabilities who are the stars of the novel. Although very, very funny at times this is not a comic novel – it has very serious themes and an underlying poignancy. To have created a thriller in which the stars are two people with severe learning disabilities, one of whom can’t talk and the other seems to chant nonsense, is some achievement and gives an identity to people which no amount of worthy ‘values’ training could ever achieve. Allan Mayer captures something very important about the post-hospital experience of people with learning disabilities and the people who work with them. However progressive and ‘person centred’ the thinking, we seem to find ever more ingenious ways of not listening to what people with learning disabilities are trying to tell us, even the most progressive amongst us. Some would say especially the most progressive amongst us. I share other reviewers experience of the at times bizarre layout of this novel, with strange gaps and rogue paragraphs floating up or down to where they shouldn’t be. I believe it arises from this being printed to order rather than in bulk. However for me it somehow reflected the world it was written about – it’s the sort of book layout you’d expect to come out of the strange world of the mental handicap hospital.

Thanks Simon, Much appreciated.

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