The Empathy Exams: Essays is a collection of intelligent, thoughtful essays about understanding pain in ourselves and others. Leslie Jamison writes abThe Empathy Exams: Essays is a collection of intelligent, thoughtful essays about understanding pain in ourselves and others. Leslie Jamison writes about a wide range of physical and emotional suffering with great insight. Essays include subjects such as her experiences as a medical actor training medical students, observations in impoverished communities, abortion, incarceration in the West Memphis Three case, the ultramarathoners at the Barkley Marathons in Tennessee, a Morgellon's convention, Frieda Kahlo, heartbreak, anorexics and cutters. The essays combine her own and others' experiences, and delve into social and philosophical issues. She refers to other literature such as James Agee's "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men," and works of Susan Sontag and Joan Didion. Jamison writes, "Empathy isn't just something that happens to us--a meteor shower of synapses firing across the brain--it's also a choice we make: to pay attention, to extend ourselves."...more
Published in 1962, "A Clockwork Orange" is set in the near future England at a time when teenage gangs roamed the streets committing senseless acts ofPublished in 1962, "A Clockwork Orange" is set in the near future England at a time when teenage gangs roamed the streets committing senseless acts of violence. The teenagers speak in an argot called Nadsat, which is mainly English with some Russian words, Cockney rhyming slang, and Romany, as well as some invented words. If your edition of the book does not contain an appendix with a Nadsat dictionary, print up a copy at wiktionary. The author, Anthony Burgess, was a linguist, and he increases the use of Nadsat as the violence increases.
The book starts with Alex and his droogs (friends) spending a drug-fueled night beating and robbing people. They end up at a home where they beat the husband and gang-rape his wife. Alex reads a paragraph about free choice from the book entitled "A Clockwork Orange" that the husband is writing before destroying the book.
Later in the book, Alex is imprisoned and is chosen for the experimental Ludovico's Technique, a form of psychological conditioning (somewhat based on B F Skinner's work). It modifies his behavior so that even thinking about violence makes him nauseous and sick. This also results in Alex having no way to defend himself.
The book asks the question of whether man is naturally violent and evil (original sin). Is it better to choose evil with free will, rather than be good with no freedom of choice? Alex is no longer acting freely as a human being, but is acting as a mechanical thing. How far should the state go in suppressing an individual for the benefit of the state or community?
I won't go into the plot details and spoil the book. "A Clockwork Orange" is a book filled with horrific violence, but it has a clever dystopian plot and the fascinating Nadsat language. Anthony Burgess wrote twenty-one chapters in the original book published in England, with some sense of redemption but no true remorse, in the last chapter when Alex matures and becomes an adult. The last chapter was left out of the American books until recently, and was also omitted in Stanley Kubrick's dark film in 1971. So it's interesting to read an edition with all twenty-one chapters to see which ending seems more realistic....more
Iris Dunleavy stood up to her husband, a Virginia plantation owner, because he was cruel to the slaves. After strong-willed Iris ran away, she was capIris Dunleavy stood up to her husband, a Virginia plantation owner, because he was cruel to the slaves. After strong-willed Iris ran away, she was captured and put on trial. She was convicted of madness and sent away to an asylum on Sanibel Island. Iris became especially close to another resident, Ambrose, who is haunted by memories from the Civil War. To calm himself, Ambrose concentrates on the color blue--blue sky, blue water, blue glass, blue clothes.
The book shows that wives were property of their husbands at the time of the Civil War, and they could be locked away if they became an embarrassment to the man's pride. Wives were supposed to be submissive and not think for themselves.
Some of the supposedly sane people in the story--the cruel overseer of the slaves, the sadistic officer in the army, the mean matron at the asylum--actually seemed as unstable as some of the odd residents at the asylum. Even the doctor and his family had some emotional issues. So how does a judge determine who is mad or insane?
The book tugged at the heartstrings as love developed between Iris and Ambrose, but with little chance they could have a life together. The story kept my attention as it slowly let us find out their secrets from the past. I enjoyed the interesting characters and the look back in history. 3 1/2 stars...more
Kate Crane, a ballerina in a company in New York City, is feeling guilty that she could not do more to help Gwen, her younger sister. Gwen, the more tKate Crane, a ballerina in a company in New York City, is feeling guilty that she could not do more to help Gwen, her younger sister. Gwen, the more talented ballerina, had a nervous breakdown, and had just returned to their parents' home to recuperate. Kate injured her neck, is coping with a breakup with her boyfriend, and feels the stress of being a soloist.
Written by a dancer, the book gives the reader a behind-the-scenes look at the world of ballet. Although the story is told from Kate's point of view, Gwen's presence is felt throughout the book. It's a novel about the difficult relationship, and conflicting emotions that exist between the sisters. Kate is under a lot of pressure in a demanding career, and Gwen's instability added more stress to her life. As Kate narrates to the reader, she is in turn witty, blown away by the beauty of the ballet, dealing with pain, and worrying that she did not do enough to help Gwen.
This book would be especially appreciated by people who enjoy watching or dancing ballet since it goes into quite a bit of detail about the life of a dancer....more
The neurologist Oliver Sacks has written a compassionate book about hallucinations, full of individual patients' s8-30-15 Rest in Peace, Oliver Sacks.
The neurologist Oliver Sacks has written a compassionate book about hallucinations, full of individual patients' stories as well as his own experiences. Hallucinations caused by sensory deprivation were especially interesting. Blindness, hearing problems, solitary confinement, sailors staring at an endless calm sea, and sensory deprivation tanks can all lead to hallucinations because "the brain needs not only perceptual input but perceptual change." In addition to visual hallucinations, people can also have auditory, olfactory, and tactile sensations. Illness, fevers, migraines, epilepsy, dementia, delirium, sleep deprivation, alcohol, drugs, and grief are some of the other causes of hallucinations.
Dr Sacks' own experiences with psychedelics and other drugs in the 1960s are very colorfully described. He also shares his experiences with migraines which he first developed as a child. He interviewed people who had hallucinations that took on a mystical aspect or a religious experience. He also gives theories about the possible causes of the near death experience. Ways that neurologists are helping patients with amputated limbs deal with the "phantom limb" sensation were also discussed.
Dr Sacks' love of literature is evident since he quotes neurology papers that are centuries old, and references famous authors who have experience hallucinations. After reading this book, the reader could read with fresh eyes works by Edgar Allan Poe, Guy de Maupassant, Lewis Carroll, Dostoyevsky, and Nabokov. Even "The Bible", "The Illiad", and "The Odyssey" have examples of hallucinations--visions and voices. Many traditional fairytales and folktales also have elements of hallucinations--elves, leprechauns, and various demons.
I thought it would have been useful if the author had included a short glossary of neurological terms since some readers might not have an extensive medical vocabulary. Overall, I found Hallucinations to be a fascinating book. ...more
In this science fiction book, scientists have performed an experimental brain operation on mice which augments intelligence. The white lab mouse, AlgeIn this science fiction book, scientists have performed an experimental brain operation on mice which augments intelligence. The white lab mouse, Algernon, is running through mazes at record speed. The mentally challenged Charlie, who does menial jobs at a bakery, is asked to be the first human to undergo the experimental surgery. He writes about his conversation with the neurosurgeon before the surgery: "And he said that meens im doing something grate for sience and Ill be famus and my name will go down in the books. I dont care so much about beeing famus. I just want to be smart like other pepul so I can have lots of friends who like me."
Charlie keeps a diary of his progress, and his spelling, grammar, word choice, and punctuation change as his intelligence increases. He undergoes emotional changes, and is able to see his childhood from a different view as his IQ zooms higher. He has flashbacks where he feels that the disabled Charlie is looking through a window at the new Charlie. Then the scientists notice changes in Algernon's behavior, and wonder what will happen to Charlie.
Daniel Keyes had a degree in psychology, had published science fiction stories, and had experience in teaching developmentally disabled adults when he wrote a short story called "Flowers for Algernon" in 1959. The story was expanded into a novel in 1966, and several movies have been based upon the book. The author shows a great understanding and compassion for developmentally disabled people who are often treated by other people in a superior, condescending manner, or made the butt of cruel jokes. There's a lot of food for thought in the pages of this book, so I can see why the story of Charlie and Algernon is so popular for classroom use....more
Olivia Donatelli is trying to make a new life for herself on Nantucket after her autistic son Anthony died, and her husband separated from her. She'sOlivia Donatelli is trying to make a new life for herself on Nantucket after her autistic son Anthony died, and her husband separated from her. She's trying to make sense of the short life of her young son that she loved.
Beth Ellis, her neighbor and a mother of three daughters, is also coping with change as her marriage fell apart. Beth decides to persue her lifelong dream of becoming a writer, and a book about a special little boy unfolds.
Love Anthony is a book about relationships, making changes, autism, and unconditional love. It makes the reader think about what happiness and love mean to different people, including an autistic child. This is the third book by Lisa Genova that I have read, and they all touch the heart while giving the reader lots of food for thought. I was delighted to receive this novel as a "first read."...more
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking is an informative book about the value of being an introvert in a society that pusheQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking is an informative book about the value of being an introvert in a society that pushes people to be extroverted. The author cites research into the strengths and weaknesses of both introverts and extroverts, showing why both are important in business, relationships, and the classroom. She also writes about Eastern cultures that place more value on an introverted lifestyle than we find in Western culture. She encourages introverted individuals that spend their time in extroverted leadership positions to carve out restorative niches (quiet time, research, reading) in their day. Suggestions are included for parents to help their introverted child feel comfortable in the classroom and on playdates. The book was well researched and held my interest....more
Christine loses her memories every time she falls asleep. She wakes up in a house she does not recognize--with a man who claims to be her husband in hChristine loses her memories every time she falls asleep. She wakes up in a house she does not recognize--with a man who claims to be her husband in her bed. Then the same thing happens again tomorrow.
Dr Nash told her to keep a secret journal of her days and any memories that she has recovered, and calls her each morning to remind her about the journal. She realizes that her husband is telling her lies. Is he doing it to protect her from devastating truths, or to hide the truth from her for other reasons? She's confused and scared, and wonders who she can trust. This gripping amnesia thriller is full of suspense all the way to a great ending....more
Dr Sacks tells the stories of patients with various neurological disorders, dividing the stories into four main groups. Some of the patients had deficDr Sacks tells the stories of patients with various neurological disorders, dividing the stories into four main groups. Some of the patients had deficits such as loss of proprioception and aphasia. Others had symptoms of excesses such as those with Tourette's syndrome with tics. Some patients were transported to another time in their lives, often because tumors in the brain stimulated the temporal lobes, activating certain memories, dreams, or visions. A fourth group of patients that he studied were either mentally challenged, autistic, or "idiots savants" with special gifts.
Dr Sacks tells their stories with empathy and warmth. There are many medical terms used so it helps to have either a good science background or a good dictionary. The book was published in 1985, so I'm sure that more has been learned during the last 27 years about many of the disorders descibed. But it gives a good overview of the interesting and difficult conditions that a neurologist encounters....more
Esther Greenwood is a brilliant writer, a student at Smith College, who is spending a month interning at a fashion magazine in New York City in the 19Esther Greenwood is a brilliant writer, a student at Smith College, who is spending a month interning at a fashion magazine in New York City in the 1950s. At the beginning of this coming-of-age book, she suffers from depression, unhappy with any of the choices she has to make in life, but is still functioning. When she returns home to Massachusetts, she spirals into despair and depression, unable to sleep or write or eat. While on the outside it might look like Esther has everything going for her in life, inside she feels like a bell jar had descended over her, she has a nervous breakdown, and attempts to end her life. Her experiences at various mental hospitals, when psychiatry was not very advanced, are related to us.
The book is known to be a semi-autobiographical account of Sylvia Plath's own life. She absolutely sucks the reader into her world with her account of what it is like going through a mental breakdown. Amazingly, she is able to make her account occasionally witty while writing about the scariness of mental illness. Perhaps Sylvia Plath's emotional makeup led her to feel and reflect about life much more deeply than the average person. While that gave beauty and genius to her writing, it also drove her to despair.
This book ends with the author's release from the mental hospital. In thinking what lay ahead she says, "All I could see were question marks." That sent chills through me because she did eventually commit suicide in 1963....more