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Into the Silent Land: Travels in Neuropsychology
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Into the Silent Land: Travels in Neuropsychology

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  770 ratings  ·  51 reviews
Paul Broks draws on 15 years as a neuropsychologist to present a narrative about memory and personal identity. Macabre yet humane, unsettling but affecting, he writes about the experiences of his patients and his experience as their psychologist.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 1st 2004 by Atlantic Books (UK) (first published 2003)
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its like if william s. burroughs, italo calvino, and oliver sacks got together for a dreamtime conversation in a floating pool of sulphur
Jun 02, 2008 Shani rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: neuropsychology students
I loved the neuropsych stuff but not the author's own quest into himself. I thought some bits were boring. I wish there was more of the patient's view and less of the aging doctor's.
Oct 07, 2007 Ken rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of philosophy, psychology, science, sci fi
I'm going to need a bit more time to absorb this one. :)

In short the book consists of a series of philosophical essays using case studies in clinical neuropsychology, the author's personal musings and science fiction to discover the relationship of "the self" to human biology.

The author uses neuroscience to dispel the common sense notion that there is a self located somewhere in the human brain. He then uses philosophy to undermine the notion that there even is such a thing as self.

He does all t
Wants to be a book by DennnettHofstadterSacks but is actually a rudimentary, and oddly depressing, look at the problems of consciousness.
Other reviewers have noted it's unfair to compare Broks to Sachs, and I agree.

That said, per the "philosophy" angle he brings, I will compare him to somebody else - Dan Dennett.

Some of the essays in this book remind me of some of Dennett's early stuff, like in the book co-written and co-edited with Douglas Hofstadter, "The Mind's I."

Broks' tales in here are less about the patient, in part being a clinical psychologist, and more along the line of philosophical Gedankenexperimenten, or, to use Den
Christopher Campbell
Although not as engrossing as Ramachadran, Paul Broks did stimulate my curiosity with a lay person's novel about clinical psychology. Although primarily interested in the psychological implications of the mind-body problem, Into the Silent Land also dabbled in philosophy and religion, attempting to find the the truth to the question of the self. The work was not exactly a page-turner; at some points I had to take a break in order to both rejuvenate my spirits and assimilate what I had read. Howe ...more
Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance]
Just heard Jane Curtin reading Voodoo Child (Slight Return) on PRI Selected Shorts, and am very excited. It's not often I get to shelve a book with this particular combination of mind-blowing/biology/literary-fiction/nonfiction/metafiction - and I could probably add a few more: postmodern, neurology, psychology, philosophy....... ahhhhh. Great combination.

Story here: NPR Selected Shorts - Complicated Relationships

I look forward to reading the rest of this..
Matthew Green
Broks is such a non-linear thinker that it was almost impossible to follow a through-line to this book, assuming there was one. He doesn't develop a particular idea; rather, he just tells a collection of stories. Those stories are so poetic at times that I wasn't sure I understood what he was getting at, and they often felt like ethereally connected images that I couldn't completely track with. I wish I'd spent the time some other way.
Halfway in, and I can't stand this book. Dr. Broks wants me to believe that he contemplates philosophical questions about self and identity every time he works with a patient, and, well, I just want to hear his patients' fascinating stories without pages of romanticized airs in between. I have to take frequent breaks from reading or else I'm going to go cross-eyed from rolling my eyes after every other sentence: "The illusion is irresistible. Behind every face there is a self...The brute fact is ...more
Richard Powers, in a recent essay on place and fiction, calls this a "chimerical excursion [...] with its collage of neuroscience, clinical case histories, memoir, philosophical essay, and bare naked short story. Broks’s essays prove that there is no Self, no master narrative holding us together; but his fictive personal memoir can’t escape having one. The brain is condemned to think that it’s a soul, and to describe that impossible hybrid state [...]."

I wish more books ended with an epigraph.

Broks made an admirable attempt at combining self and others' in this muddled disaster full of his own confusion. He is very clearly unsure of the self, and makes no headway from start to finish in reconciling his own personal struggle with the issues he raises in this book. He seems unable to address any particular topic and this compilation rambles in a manner that leaves no taste for wanting more. As you read you too will be confused. You will ask yourself if this is a fictional novel, a comp ...more
I'm in a "How does the brain work" pattern of reading, so I got this on from the library. Yes, there is information on how the brain works with anecdotes of patients Brok has treated or read about but the thing that makes this book different is the way Brok probes into the realm of philosophy. If the brain is just "meat," where is that which makes the person. He never calls it a "soul" because he doesn't believe in the soul as commonly defined. But his points are intriguing and thought-provoking ...more
Feb 11, 2009 Kevin rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: materialists, idealists, dualists, egotists, mysterians
Recommended to Kevin by: all in the mind, abc radio national australia
Shelves: non-fiction
With your feet in the air/
And your head on the ground/
Try this trick and spin it/
Your head will collapse/
But there's nothing in it/
And you'll ask yourself/
Where is my mind?

This might be a dangerous book for those with a fragile sense of self, but required reading for anyone with a big ego. It is certainly an incredible achievement. Paul Broks manages to elucidate current ideas surrounding the brain/mind dilemma in a provocative style sometimes reminiscent of a novel or innerspace travelogue. If
A fascinating glimpse into the world of neuropsychology. The more misanthropic and resigned to the stupidity of humanity I become the more interested I am actually becoming in what makes us tick and why we are the way we are. This is a fascinating and easily readable book that makes you think. From what it is that creates our feeling of self-consciousness to whether we actually exist at all it's all touched on in a work which is as much philosophical as it is scientific. My appetite has been wet ...more
some really sad and introspective moments in this book, but overall it wasn't for me.

it was kind of like the author was trying too hard to be poetic and deep, to make the reader feel these poignant situations. but neurological disorders don't really need any literary tricks to get across their poignancy and sadness, so mostly i ended up rolling my eyes or skimming over his poetic musings.

harold klawans and oliver sacks are waaaaaay better at writing this kind of neuro-case study.

that being said
Paul does a phenomenal job in sharing his case studies and then incorporating situations that make you think harder about reality.
At times, I get crazy about case studies involving Neuropsychology; on the other end, I'm always nuts for stories that are crisp and incredibly thought provoking.
In this book, Paul introduces a conflict involving a teleporter, which truly brings out a certain struggle of reality. Granted, at this point we have no real form of transferring matter from one area to anoth
Fascinating, beautiful, and surprisingly poignant read. I'm still coming to terms with the conundrums and challenges presented within. I appreciated how, while decided in his beliefs and views, Broks still allowed the book to focus on the questions and explorations.
Amazing but a bit bizarre towards the end.
This book is great for its case studies, but some of Broks musings are a bit too much for my tastes. I don't really care to hear a neurologist (or anyone, for that matter) say "despite myself, I fear for my soul."
But some people like that stuff, I guess. And he gets a little to literary at times, too. I like my sentences straightforward, especially in science books.
Not too exciting, I know.
In any event, it's an interesting read!
For someone like me, who has no knowledge of neurology, this was a very accessible introduction to some of the issues, especially relating to identity and a person's sense of themselves. I came away largely mystified, but in a good way. Broks writes well, and I'd recommend this short book to anyone who likes to think about some of the fundamentals in life, for a change. It's certainly not heavy or technical.
This was an interesting book but not quite what I was expecting. I was expecting a Sachs style set of case studies with a more modern explanation of the brain disorders behind the cases. There was some of that, however there was also much more. A lot of philosophy and personal/fictional accounts. I struggled a bit with the philosophy and I was not sure what to make of the personal/fictional accounts.
Written by a neuropsychologist, this is essentially an exploration on the nature of identity - ego - id - who or what is "I".

Using case studies, autobiograhical thoughts/stories and philosphical ideas, this raised for me some interesting questions - no answers but that is the joy of this read - it promotes thinking.

Try it, it's well worth a read.
This is an engaging exploration of the mind/body enigma, and other neuro-psychological realities, following the format of short stories and accounts. Broks' examinations of the construction of souls and extent of self add to this book's blend of straight forward and complex intellectual attraction.
Sarah Milne
Wow, I did not like this. I disliked the tone and the writing. And I get the definite impression that if I met the man I would dislike him, too. Much of this was probably better left in his private journal. Hey, I get it, I can be a bit of a cynic myself, but, dude, you may need medication.
A book on a complex and often difficult subject that reads like a Bill Bryson travelogue written in blank verse of breathtaking beauty. Sounds over the top, right? Well, try it - I promise you won't be disappointed. You will be absorbed, moved and uplifted. Be prepared to laugh and cry.
Fascinating peek into the world of neuropsychology through case studies and fictional interludes that illustrate certain pathologies and philosophical questions. (Where is the "self" located? Is there a self? etc.) My favorite part is the bit by Robert Louis Stevenson about his dreams.
An interesting read... Broks seems to be very humane within his craft! I had fun reading his tangents and inquiries into the field of neuropsychology... brain as "meat", our evolving consciousness, the idea of "Self" separated from the biological processes of the body.

Hazel McHaffie
Broks is a neuropsychologist. He knows about the complexities of the brain. In 'Into the Silent Land' he brings together his clinical experience, knowledge and personal reflections in an original work that is at once mesmerising and disturbing.
Matt Holloway
Thought provoking, generally well-written, imaginative, decent science, a touch flaky at times. Fans of this might also check out the documentary "Unknown White Male", a great case study about a fairly normal guy recovering from amnesia.
I just love how Junot Diaz puts you in the life, not just world, of his characters. He writing voice is the most genuine with no trace of writer-ego-trip. His stories can be feel harsh, but they are true to life.
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"Paul Broks is an English neuropyschologist and science writer. He is currently Senior Clinical Lecturer at the University of Plymouth and Honorary Consultant in Neuropsychology. He is a regular contributor to Prospect and has written for The Times, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, and Granta.

Paul Broks trained as a clinical psychologist at Oxford University and went on to specialize i
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“Are you all right?'
'It's okay,' he says, 'I think I just swallowed some dark.'
He has the notion that darkness is a substance. It will make you choke if you swallow too much in one go. I could have put him straight with some prosaic account of the coughing reflex being triggered by the shock of the cold air rather than a mouthful of darkness, but I didn't I stashed away the treasured image and left him with the version of reality fashioned by his infant brain.”
“Our ethics and systems of justice, our entire moral order, are founded on the notion of society as a collective of individual selves-- autonomous, introspective, accountable agents. If this self-reflective, moral agent is revealed to be illusory, what then?” 1 likes
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