ALLERGIC TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

THE EXPLOSION IN ENVIRONMENTAL ALLERGIES--FROM SICK BUILDINGS TO MULTIPLE CHEMICAL SENSITIVITY

An investigation into the phenomenon of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), a condition that, like chronic fatigue syndrome, is regarded with considerable skepticism by much of the mainstream medical community. Science writer Radetsky, a regular contributor to Discover magazine, interviewed sufferers, activists, so-called environmental physicians, and a variety of traditional medical specialists to probe the nature of this controversial new illness and how it's being treated. His depiction of the extreme steps taken by some to create safe, toxin-free environments for themselves—porcelain sleeping cubicles, aluminum-foil-lined rooms, water-filled moats- -makes it easy to see why they have often been dismissed as obsessive, if not paranoid, hypochondriacs. While environmental physicians are convinced that MCS is a valid disease caused by exposure to chemicals in the environment, most conventional allergists see it as a psychological problem. Radetsky talks to a psychologist who treats it with traditional psychotherapy in combination with relaxation, feedback, and other approaches; an immunologist who sees it as the first symptom of serious autoimmune disorders, such as lupus; a pulmonary specialist who views it as a respiratory disorder; and a psychiatrist who hypothesizes that it is a physiological illness involving the brain's limbic system. While most MCS sufferers are white, middle-class, middle-aged women, Radetsky notes that Gulf War syndrome, whch has virtually identical symptoms, is overwhelmingly an affliction of young, active men, a fact that he feels may give MCS some credibility as a genuine disease. Needed now, he says, are controlled clinical studies to determine the cause of chemical sensitivity, plus some serious measures to clean up the environment. An appendix lists support groups, environmental consultants, and sources of safe products. MCS sufferers may see this as another Silent Spring, but the AMA will take more persuading. (Author tour)

Pub Date: July 2, 1997

ISBN: 0-316-73221-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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SECRET SEX LIVES

A YEAR ON THE FRINGES OF AMERICAN SEXUALITY

Investigative journalist Spencer expands her own sexual boundaries through the exploration of others’.

“Worn out from all the tragedy” of a decade penning true crime books, Spencer (Wages of Sin, 2010) engagingly steers readers through the wonderful world of contemporary sexuality. The pensive, unmarried Texan considers herself sexually ignorant, doesn’t particularly like to be touched (never has), and comes from a religious family who shunned the idea of crafting a memoir exploring the sex lives of random Americans. Surprisingly, the project transformed her from lonely, sexually timid 50-something into a woman budding with intimate possibilities. Posting a succession of inquisitive online personal ads probing responders’ bedroom activities, Spencer unleashes a battalion of sexed-up soldiers eager to interact and share prurient and often tabooed sex-drenched adventures. Among her profiles are a few hypersexual females, a flirtatious adulterer half her age, horny swingers looking for “more on the side,” a parade of randy bisexuals, phone-sex enthusiasts and a cross-dressing father of two. As Spencer exposes the flesh behind the fantasy, she incrementally reveals aspects of her own personal life, which frequently saves the text from dissolving into a blur of America’s hot and bothered. Eventually, the book becomes a psychological science project, as the author experimented, challenged her beliefs, and arrived at epiphanies far different from her opening declaration that “it’s a lot safer to laugh about sex than have sex.” Both a celebration of sexuality and, for the author, an embracive awakening to it. 

 

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-425-21936-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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An ambitiously original but uncorroborated theory.

PSYCHOCONDUCTION

A sweeping new theory that puts forward a way to rejuvenate a damaged brain without using surgical or pharmacological methods. 

Clinical psychologist Litvin (Litvin’s Code, 2011) proposes what he calls a bold “new neuropsychological discovery” about ways in which a chronically underperforming brain may be improved with carefully managed mental exercises. According to the author, the brain processes information via an internal mapping system, in which received data is directed to a “book of addresses.” When the brain malfunctions, he says, it’s largely the result of damaged complex brain cells receiving “incomplete or distorted requests,” which results in the improper distribution of information. However, he asserts that the brain has a kind of organic plasticity that allows it to respond to willfully enacted repairs. Litvin argues that simple cells in the body can be stimulated in a way that either rejuvenates or replace damaged complex cells; this stimulation can overcome what he calls “neuropsychological barriers” and result in the release of a newly “balanced amount of brain chemicals”—a vague formulation that typifies the author’s overall mode of discussion. This is achieved, he says, by activating the brain’s response to various stimuli in quick succession, including tactile, visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and olfactory stimuli. Litvin calls this theory of repair “psychoconduction,” and he includes a detailed series of mental exercises that ask readers to translate simple mathematical equations into various modes of expression; for example, he shows how a visual pattern may be translated into a knocking sound, or a clamping of a hand. Litvin has discussed psychoconduction in a number of other works, but here, he furnishes his most thorough and systematic explanation of it, largely in accessible, nontechnical language. However, this volume also replicates the principal vices of the others: It’s remarkably general, and it doesn’t present any empirical, experimental evidence for its claims. Also, Litvin’s promises regarding the scope of its application are equally unsubstantiated, as well as implausible; he claims, for example, that the exercises can remedy dyslexia, anxiety, attention-deficit disorder, anger issues, and even help people who have hallucinations. It’s never clear how it’s all possible, and the author offers no solid proof. 

An ambitiously original but uncorroborated theory. 

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4669-1254-0

Page Count: 129

Publisher: Trafford

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2019

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