THE CHEMISTRY OF CONSCIOUS STATES

HOW THE BRAIN CHANGES ITS MIND

A prominent neurophysiologist explains his theories about the brain's chemistry and how it affects our conscious (and unconscious) activities. Hobson (Psychiatry/Harvard) espouses a kind of yin-yang view of the brain in which waking states are dominated by ``amines'' (neurotransmitters like norepinephrine that are associated with attention and arousal) and sleeping and vegetative states by acetylcholine. In this hydrodynamic theory amines are depleted as the day wears on and the cholinergic levels rise, precipitating sleep and dreaming—a time when acetylcholine is at its peak. During sleep the system is building up its supply of amines, eventually waking us up. Not altogether a surprising theory, considering that Hobson's first book, The Dreaming Brain and Sleep (not reviewed), reflected similarly his lifelong research into sleep, collection of dream journals, and experiments with lucid (i.e., self-conscious) dreaming. While the notion that we are ruled by our neurochemistry will hardly shock enlightened readers, the tendency in approaches like Hobson's is to overinterpret: Thus the schizophrenic's hallucinations, the fits of expletive-slinging common in Tourette's patients, and the suggestibility of hypnotizable people are all given as examples of involuntary loss of control occurring in waking states (whereas dream sleep creates controls that prevent violent acting out). Curiously, with all the explanatory weight Hobson puts on the importance of sleep and dreaming, he is the first to admit that no one can explain the necessity of dreams; he even suggests that newer drugs that promote production of amines may obviate the need for dreaming. There is obviously more to brain-mind states, more to the bag of neurochemicals and byways of neural circuitry, than Hobson can account for. All the same, his case studies, autobiographical anecdotes, and guidance on how to deal with sleep problems without drugs will intrigue many readers and possibly provide relief to others.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-316-36754-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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