Book Review: The Mu Rhythm Bluff, an Adventure Book Discussing Masculinity and Disability

The Mu Rhythm Bluff, by Jonathan Mitchell, features an autistic man named Drake Dumas who is in his late forties and is unlucky at both love and cards.  Jonathan Mitchell, the author, is autistic himself in real life, and much of the book’s plot is based off his real life’s struggles.

In the book, Dumas works as a medical transcriptionist, barely making a living in his late forties.  He also plays poker as a hobby.  Eventually, he gets fired from his transcriptionist job for not working well enough. However, he learns about an experimental treatment for autism called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and signs up for it. Even though the treatment doesn’t seem to help much at first, he finds out that he can now read people’s facial expressions really well at poker, even managing to win one million dollars at a famous tournament. However, his poker skills decline over time, and he must find them out how to get them back. He meets a couple women that claim to be interested in him, but only want his money. As his poker skills decline, those women lose interest in him.

One important theme of this book is the challenge of interacting with women with a profound disability. Dumas is a virgin in his late forties, and it pains him. He flaps his hands in public and rambles about incoherent topics, and as a result, many women mock his disability. After he wins the one million dollars, a journalist named Erin Hobbs exploits his life’s story in the New York Times, portraying him as an untapped genius and trivializing his difficulties. As a result, Dumas is deeply angry.

To fulfill the expectations of masculinity, Dumas is expected to be a provider. It is often said that “a man’s career is his penis”. His boss at the transcription company, Natalie, pushes him around and threatens to fire him over small mistakes.  After getting fired, he contemplates suicide, which is often the result of terminal unemployment for men.  However, he discovers the experimental treatment for Autism, which changes his mind.

Although he wants to be cured from autism, there is a fad called the “Neurodiversity Movement” which says that autistics are different, not disabled, which serves as an attack on his potential masculinity.  To this day, there is no evidence that autistics are truly talented and don’t need assistance.  In the book, Dumas clashes with higher-functioning autistics over this issue, and they refuse to give him support for his wish, claiming that he is just asking for attention.  The book’s author, Jonathan Mitchell, has written a brilliant essay on the matter in real life, Undiagnosing Gates, Jefferson, and Einstein.

Later on in the book when Dumas becomes rich from poker, a manipulative female journalist takes an interest in him, but she seems overly obsessed. Drake follows her into a limo — where he is held at gunpoint by the leader of a drug dealing gang. To survive, he now has to play poker for them for the rest of his life until he dies.  Under a lot of pressure, Dumas must find a way to gain his poker skills back so the gang won’t kill him. He must play along with them while thinking of a method to escape.

The writing style of this book is very detailed and in-depth. The reader will feel like he is being pulled into the story, as he learns about autism, poker, and dating. This book is very suspenseful, with Dumas trying to win endless money at poker with his new talent and having more luck dating women. As Dumas likes to repeatedly say, this book is “Like a Dagger Through the Heart.”

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