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SHADOWS BRIGHT AS GLASS by Amy Ellis Nutt Kirkus Star


The Remarkable Story of One Man's Journey from Brain Trauma to Artistic Triumph

by Amy Ellis Nutt

Pub Date: April 5th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4391-4310-0
Publisher: Free Press

The fascinating story of how a chiropractor, after suffering a massive brain injury, became an acclaimed artist with an entirely new outlook on life.

When Jon Sarkin awoke from brain surgery that required the removal of part of his cerebellum, he knew something fundamental about his sense of self had changed. The cerebellum controls motor coordination, processes visual images and affects cognition, emotion and behavior, and while Sarkin ultimately made a remarkable physical recovery, he no longer felt the same way about life. Before, he'd been a pragmatic family man, dedicated to his practice; after, he felt disassociated with those instincts, and instead experienced a “ferocious need to create” and began to draw compulsively. Newark Star-Ledger veteran reporter Nutt incisively delves into the emotional and physical implications of such a shift, examining the relationship between the brain and the soul. For thousands of years, philosophers and scientists have investigated this relationship, pondering the physical location of self-identity (curiously, the brain was generally considered superfluous to the soul, and other organs were linked to emotion and intellect). Only relatively recently have researchers concluded that physical brain matter contains the force of life; neurosurgeons can even identify parts of the brain containing specific memories and impulses. When Sarkin lost part of his cerebellum, he also lost part of his ability to identify who he was. “If our ability to sense the world is compromised,” writes Nutt, “so is our sense of self.” Sarkin's damaged brain, as it repaired neurons over time, enhanced certain impulses and sensations to make up for what was lost, leaving him with a heightened sense of color and space. Art became the medium in which he searched for his new self, and he filled in the gaps in his self-identity with pictures. He is now a well-known artist and writer, and has said that “[w]hen an artist is truly born, that is the end of the person that was a person before he was an artist.”

A mind-bending and inspiring book.