By Missy Schwartz
Updated March 26, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

Few things are more heartbreaking than learning that your child is destined to be an outsider, forever isolated inside his own mind. McSweeney’s editor Collins conveys this sad truth beautifully, with utmost tenderness for his son, Morgan, who was diagnosed with autism when, at age 2, he could read, add, and subtract but hardly spoke. Collins’ efforts to understand Morgan lead him to explore subjects as diverse as Peter the Wild Boy, an 18th-century feral child known as one of the earliest documented autistics, and synesthesia, a multisensorial phenomenon common to the condition (and to nonautistic artists like the Van Halen brothers). At times, Collins’ topic hopping is jarringbut only because it tears us away from the fascinating portrait of his son.