Autism Speaks, Long and Short: How Leo Tolstoy Gave Me Hope


A work colleague once criticized the length of some winding, baroque piece of communication as being “Tolstoyan.” 

As both a literature aficionado and connoisseur of words, I chatted her on the side and said, “At that length, I’d say it’s probably more Proustian!” 

Here’s something about Tolstoy, though. He doesn’t deserve the stereotype.

It reminded me of a sad episode in my career.

One of my former bosses gave me feedback about my questioning and speaking style.

He didn’t know I was autistic, and I was afraid to disclose or even hint at it.

But he noticed that I’d posit questions to others in Daedelan artifice, unfurled labyrinthine inquiries in rich and winding tapestry. I’d walk around the proverbial garden with them, frontloading and picking, packing florid petals of context to circumnavigate others together in my thoughts so they’d get it like I got it.

He hated that.

He offered me feedback with the grace of a punch couched in a boxing glove. I could hear the grating, detesting tone as he described what I did, like I was flaying the back of his mind with claws.

I felt like a doomed man, doomed to long thoughts.

As an autistic person, I wanted to be able to speak both long and short. 

In comes Tolstoy.

If you ever have the chance, read Hadji Murad – it’s Tolstoyan in art, not length.

Brevity is beautiful. Bountiful is beautiful.

Why not appreciate both?


Before you go: thank you for taking a few minutes to read this post. I spend a lot of time saving you time by keeping these brief – that’s extremely intentional! If you want to learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspectivethen feel free to follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic – or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram. Thanks!


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