strange resemblances

I excuse myself by saying dyslexic about faces; and people think I am joking. But I am not. I find it enormously difficult to reconstruct faces in my imagination, or even to recognise them on those who are present; when I watch television, I am often confused by which character is which. Rather like being confused between “left” and “right”, I know there are different characters in the show, and could recognise and describe their characteristics. But I can’t attach the facial labels to the right character stories. Similarly, when I do recall faces, I find they come in isolation, without names, and I have to rid my mind of the face before the name, and all its associated biographical information, come back to me.

So when I am talking to people, I tend to study them closely, even when they are not pretty women; but what I see is a flicker of likenesses rather than a gestalt. Like I said, dyslexic. Sometimes these are likenesses to to other half-apprehended people, and this nags at me, causing even greater study, until the memory is resolved, because I sense unreality, as if I were I one of those scenes, real enough, where the person I am talking to clearly knows me, but I have no idea whose face they’re wearing.

Now, I know well enough whom Robert Trivers is, and in any case, he has personality large and powerful enough to fill any social space. But I still felt that he reminded me powerfully os someone unlikely and after three days, it came to me: the squared-off chin and broad cheekbones — it’s Steven Rose, sworn enemy of sociobiology. But why not? Their ancestors both came from the Pale, and maybe the same cossack raped some shared great-great-great-great granny.

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2 Responses to strange resemblances

  1. tom says:

    Technically, dyslexia must refer to language difficulties (the ‘lexia’ bit). Maybe we need a word for a milder version of ‘prosopagnosia’ (prosopon meaning “face” and agnosia meaning “non-knowledge”.). I suggest that you are ‘dysprosoponagic’

  2. acb says:

    I can only retort with further pedantry; scholarship consists in making these little adjustments, as someone says in a Lionel Davidson book: I can’t be “dys” anything “agnostic” (not how I want to be) because that’s a double negative. I could be dys–gnostic or dys–gnotic.

    I could be

    # dysprosopognostic
    # prosopagnosish

    But neither of these words is useful for much except as a chat-up line. “Excuse me. Could you step into the light — you see I suffer from terrible dysprosopognosia, and your face is so beautiful I want to be sure I remember it”

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