An ambitious project that buckles under the weight of its own complexity.

THE BORDERS OF NORMAL

A CLINICAL PSYCHIATRIST DE-STIGMATIZES PARANORMAL PHENOMENA

A psychiatrist uses his personal experiences and stories from many different times and cultures in an attempt to redefine the public perception of psychic phenomena.

In this debut treatise on unexplainable events, Matas starts with an account of his own brushes with death and how they affected his worldview. His goal is to persuade readers that paranormal activity, such as extrasensory perception, prophetic visions, and spirits, is real, and he does so through example. Along the way, he draws from sources from across Western civilization, including Albert Einstein’s well-known description of quantum mechanics as “spooky action at a distance.” The breadth of his references is remarkable, but it’s overwhelming how he addresses so much rich subject matter so quickly. At one point, for example, he head-spinningly jumps from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophy to thoughts of experts in physiology and aerospace engineering in the space of a single page. Matas does go a step further in this book than most proponents of the paranormal, however, by acknowledging its many critics. But he also asserts that righteous skepticism runs up against two problems. First, he says that scientists can’t ever completely “prove” a theory—they can merely show it to be consistent with all the data they have at the moment. So Matas argues that science can only show that the supernatural is either very unlikely or very hard to detect. Second, he expresses the belief that premonitions, near-death experiences, and hallucinations are integral to the human experience. When skeptics ignore or reject them, he says, they deny the lived experiences of many people around them. In his history of the paranormal in media, Matas describes his premonition of the twist end to the 2016 film Arrival in a two-line couplet that he wrote 30 years before—a kind of cosmic reminder that time is nonlinear. However, compared to the grandiosity of the previous mysticism in the book, this mundane point falls flat; there’s just something incredibly unsatisfactory about the idea of the cosmos speaking through blockbuster movies.

An ambitious project that buckles under the weight of its own complexity.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5255-0455-6

Page Count: 228

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2017

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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