The INTP Book

There are very few novels I like because I find that fictional characters tend to be unbelievable, possessing dissonant traits that are contradictory to Myers-Briggs. Writers who don’t know about Myers-Briggs don’t know that you can’t simply choose any combination of personality traits and put them together in one person. Some authors try to make their characters complex to the point of psychological impossibility.

When_you_reach_meWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (which I’ve blogged about briefly before) is my favorite book, and I don’t say that lightly. This book is different. This book is all about INTPs. Despite the fact that it’s a children’s novel, I have never read a better fictional portrayal of INTPs.

There are several INTPs in the book, including a mysterious time traveler. The main character though, 12-year-old Miranda, is probably an INFP. I think of INFPs as “INTP Whisperers”. They make great friends for INTPs. They can understand INTPs well, and act as a translator between INTPs and others. They can be selfless champions of an INTP’s ideas, and can often identify an INTP’s emotional and relational needs better than INTPs themselves. They can also tolerate a lot of INTP eccentricities that deter other friendships, such as their lack of emotional preamble and tendency towards self-absorption. (The author has stated that Miranda is heavily modeled after herself. If Rebecca Stead is an INFP as I suspect, it’s very apt that a book about INTPs would be written by an INFP.)

Miranda becomes friends with an INTP boy named Marcus, and she does all of these things for him. At first she thinks he’s weird because he talks about advanced concepts in math and physics rather than typical 12-year-old stuff, and he doesn’t make small talk or seem to have any other friends. But then she comes to understand him. While she begins to protect Marcus in ways that he’s completely oblivious to, he teaches her how to solve the mystery of the time traveler.

Miranda spends a lot of time thinking about the nature of reality, using the metaphor of a veil. Everyone is born with an invisible veil separating them from the rest of the world, she says:

We walk around happily with these invisible veils hanging over our faces. The world is kind of blurry, and we like it that way.

But sometimes our veils are pushed away for a few moments, like there’s a wind blowing it from our faces. And when the veil lifts, we can see the world as it really is, just for those few seconds before it settles down again. We see all the beauty, and cruelty, and sadness, and love. But mostly we are happy not to. Some people learn to lift the veil themselves. Then they don’t have to depend on the wind anymore.

I’ve thought a lot about those veils. I wonder if, every once in awhile, someone is born without one. Someone who sees the big stuff all the time. Like maybe you [the time traveler].

I re-read this book whenever I’m feeling lost or overwhelmed; I’ve read it over a dozen times. It reminds me of who I am. I am not a stay-at-home mom, a person who does laundry and kisses boo-boos. I am not a homeowner or a wife. I am an INTP, a person without a veil. Most people have to work hard to lift their veil, but I have to work hard to create it.

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7 thoughts on “The INTP Book”

  1. A balance between with and without veil is necessary. Completely living without veil will make me depressed.
    An INTP from India

  2. Hi there, I’m an INFP and I absolutely love your take on INFP’s friendship with INTP-type. It’s so spot-on!!! I have always felt this deep connection with all of my INTP friends, like we can actually speak each other’s mind kind of way. Sometimes I thought maybe it’s just me, but turns out an INTP like you also see it that way, how thrilled I am! 🙂 The reason I stumble upon your blog is funny enough, it’s because I wonder if Rebecca is actually an INFP herself, too… Anyway, I think another book you might be interested in is Quiet by Susan Cain, she is indeed also an INFP and lawyer-turn-author just like Rebecca. Enjoy! And thank you for your nice little blog entry. Stumbling upon thoughts and ideas like yours makes my days. 🙂

  3. I just ordered this based on what you wrote. Will let you know what I think. I enjoy reading your blog. I am an INTP mother also. So I guess that makes, what, maybe 8 of us in the world? 🙂 Keep writing.

  4. The no veil description is absolutely perfect. I am also an INTP mum and I can relate to everything you have written. It’s so wonderful to find others I can actually relate to. My fiance is an ESFP so we are pretty much the complete opposite. It makes it hard sometimes.

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