Jill Bolte Taylor’s Stroke of Insight

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is a neuroanatomist who had a stroke and was able to study her own brain from the inside out. The stroke disabled the left side of her brain–the part of our brains where our egos reside, telling us who we are as individuals.

I am currently going back to school to get my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, and this semester I am taking Physiological Psychology (neuroscience, basically). Part of our assignment every week is to watch a group of videos pertaining to the subject matter we’re studying that week. Last week, one of the videos assigned was Dr. Taylor’s TED Talk about her stroke experience.

my-stroke-of-insightDr. Taylor’s book, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, is a longer version of her TED Talk with more detail about how the brain works, what her stroke experience was like, and what it took for her to fully recover. It’s a great book geared toward the lay-person, and her experience is fascinating to read about. The message she ultimately imparts about being compassionate, right-brained people is particularly relevant right now, I think.

Watch the video. If you’re as drawn in as I was, read the book. You won’t be disappointed.

Does The Magicians deserve another chance?

I read The Magicians (Lev Grossman) in 2012 with a bunch of other people on Twitter for an event called #1book140, and I really didn’t like it. In fact, this is what I said in my review of the book:

I read this book for #1book140, and at the beginning of our foray into The Magicians the author stated that he wrote this book because he loves young-adult fantasy and wanted to write a young-adult fantasy novel for adults, “with all the sex and drinking and other complicated adult realities that young adult authors have to leave out.” Now, I’m no judgmental prude; I’m not anti-booze, or anti-sex, and I’m definitely not anti-cussing. Have at it. However, if the only thing that separates YA novels from adult novels are booze, meaningless sex, and cussing, then we have a serious problem.

(Not to mention that many YA authors don’t shy away from those things anyway.)

And I stand by that for now. I also thought that Fillory was a lame version of Narnia, and that Brakebills was a lame version of Hogwarts. I stand by those feelings, too.

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HOWEVER…

Eric and I started watching the television adaptation of The Magicians a couple days ago…

…and I like it.

While the show reminds me of the reasons I didn’t like the book (whiny, entitled characters, anyone?), I’m starting to think I need to revisit the series. I think I want to reread The Magicians and then actually read the other two books in the trilogy.

Maybe I read The Magicians at the wrong time (that has happened with other books I didn’t like the first time around)? Maybe the rest of the series will be better and I’ll end up liking it? My reading buddy tells me that lots of people didn’t like the first book. To me that implies that they did like the other two…or at least liked them more than they liked The Magicians.

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All I know for sure is that the TV series is making me want to read the whole trilogy. I can’t remember enough of the details in the first book to know if they’ve changed much in the show, but I’m pretty into it. Alice is still a gem (she was basically the only character in the book I liked), and I’m interested in Julia’s storyline. She’s being super selfish right now, but I kind of get it.

TL;DR: I’m thinking about digging back into the books. We’ll see.

“He who ruled scent ruled the hearts of men.”

Let’s get this out of the way now (if you don’t watch It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, you won’t get the reference. Sorry.):

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This is part of a conversation I had with the friend who put me on to Perfume by Patrick Süskind. She has read it numerous times and loves it. The first part of the conversation refers to the fact that I’ve seen Perfume on a few book lists labeled as horror, but it’s not a horror novel at all. I mean, the main character does deplorable things, but it’s just not Stephen King-type stuff. I’m actually not sure what genre I would peg Perfume as…literary fiction? Thriller (not really)? Suspense (again, not really)? Historical literary fiction? That’s probably the closest I can get.

The second part of that conversation is about the main character, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. He and Dennis Reynolds from It’s Always Sunny are basically the same person, personality-wise. They are both sociopaths, they are both manipulative (in their own ways), and they both think that women are good for only one thing (although they both have different opinions about what that thing is).

The last several pages of the book have Grenouille feeling a certain kind of way about himself, which really brings home the Dennis comparison…

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Seriously, Dennis and Grenouille are both fucking awful people.

Anyway, despite my feelings about Grenouille, his story is one of real unhappiness, and regardless of why that unhappiness exists, I do feel bad for him on some level (the common plight of the empath–feeling bad for/with people even if it’s not deserved).

Also, the parts about Grenouille’s superhuman olfactory curse are really unnerving. As someone with an already pretty sensitive sense of smell, I can imagine what a nightmare that would be.

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With all that said, I loved the book. I can’t necessarily pinpoint one thing I loved about it, but I gave it five stars on Goodreads. I’d definitely read it again. And my friend and I will be watching the movie adaptation together soon, so I’ll write about that at some point, too.

Coetzee’s Disgrace

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This has been done before, I’m sure, but…

This book is a disgrace.

The main character (David Lurie) is an asshole, as is every other man in the book who plays more than a filler role.

And just about every woman in the book is insecure and helpless when it comes to the men (especially lecherous David Lurie).

The basic story is that David Lurie is a professor at a South African college. He’s been married and divorced twice (no wonder), has a grown daughter, has a standing appointment with a prostitute once a week (who he kind-of stalks at one point), and ends up having affairs with two other women–one of whom is a student–during the course of this ~200-page book. The “affair” with the student is gross. He uses his power as her professor to get her to have sex with him. She never enjoys it or acts like it’s something she’s into–not even a little. It’s rape, as far as I’m concerned. And it’s this affair with the student that does him in. His reputation and career are ruined–he’s disgraced–and he goes to stay with his grown daughter for a while.

While he’s staying with his daughter, something awful happens to them (what happens to her is the worst). Lurie finds himself disgraced again, in a way, and realizes he can’t stay there anymore when he and his daughter can’t agree on a proper course of action post-trauma.

Disgrace isn’t a very long book, so it doesn’t go into much depth about any of the characters. I think the only reason I kept reading was because I wanted to see Lurie fail miserably, once and for all. I wanted to see him with absolutely nothing left to lose. I wanted to see the women stand up for themselves and stop being frickin’ martyrs. Unfortunately, neither of those things happens. 

I guess there were messages to be received–the different forms disgrace can come in, something about apartheid and its consequences–but the delivery was awful, so the messages didn’t sink in.

I gave Disgrace two stars on Goodreads. I expected more from a Nobel Prize winning author. Silly me.