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Seriously, Read a Book!

Thoughts on books, often interpreted through the high-brow prism of cartoon (read: Archer) references. Wait! I had something for this...

Currently reading

Land of LISP: Learn to Program in LISP, One Game at a Time!
Conrad Barski
The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Notetaking
Mike Rohde
The Antidote
Oliver Burkeman
The Kind Worth Killing
Peter Swanson
James Buchanan
Jean H. Baker, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.


Hallucinations - Oliver Sacks

Hallucinations was just not up to snuff for Oliver Sacks— actually, it made me question just how much I would like Sacks' work were I to read it today, having been exposed to a breadth of narrative science writing in the years since I first read his essays.


Sacks presents hallucinations (forms of consciousness wherein sensations occur autonomously, sometimes overlapping with misperceptions or illusions, but without consensual validation) through case studies, seasoning each one with socio-cultural/historical context and bits of neurological intel. And, as it turns out, hallucinations come in many more shapes and forms than one might expect—not all of which are unpleasant. 

Pam Melting

The material itself is rich. For me, the mere concept of Charles Bonnet Syndrome (complex visual hallucinations experienced by people with partial blindness), or Anton's Syndrome (a form of anosognosia wherein completely blind patients behave as if they can see) is inherently intriguing. However, I simply wanted more science, the lack of which made what narrative there was seem fractured.


It was Sacks' accounts of his own drug-induced hallucinations, though, that really made me want to turn off and tune out (shoutout to my boy, Timothy Leary). As Sacks interspersed more and more of his personal anecdotes with patients' experiences, the stories became more and more (to use Sacks' own words) “like being privy to a dream.” But, guess what? Other people's dreams are often very, very boring. Seriously, I thought this was common knowledge.


Of course, I learned some interesting things (the mare in nightmare turns out to be not a horse, but a lady-demon who sits on your chest, giving you bad dreams and potentially suffocating you). But, by the end, I discovered that hearing about hallucinations was just not my thing. There are, of course, exceptions— cases in which the floor appears to be lava, and/or people begin transforming into Decepticons might spark my interest.


Ray Decepticon

The Floor is Lava