A note to readers: For the next few weeks, this blog is going on a book tour. So if you’re averse to self-promotion and blatant shows of immodesty (I promise to also link to the negative reviews!), or just aren’t interested in Proust Was A Neuroscientist, then I kindly suggest you check back in December, when I’ll be back talking about lots of other things beside myself. I promise this book related chatter won’t last forever…
With that warning out of the way, the LA Times ran a very generous and thoughtful review of the book yesterday:
Jonah Lehrer, a science journalist with a neuroscience background, argues in “Proust Was a Neuroscientist” that this model is not as new as it seems. I mean no disrespect when I say his book is itself something of an optical illusion — one of those figure/ground affairs, like the two profiles that vanish when the vase between them appears. Looked at one way, “Proust Was a Neuroscientist” is a lucid summary of the brain as seen by contemporary neuroscience; looked at again, it is an inspired interpretation of the work of eight 19th and 20th century artists and writers whose insights, Lehrer claims, anticipated our current understanding. In lesser hands, this argument would be merely tendentious, but Lehrer’s command of his material is so complete that he persuasively makes his case with scientific acuity and aesthetic sensitivity.
In enlarging our understanding of eight artists while teaching us how brains work (and enlarging our understanding of brains by teaching us how those artists worked), he’s produced what his modernist heroes also sought: a liberating new way to see the world. His book marks the arrival of an important new thinker, who finds in the science and the arts wonder and beauty, and with equal confidence says wise and fresh things about both.
They also posted a big chunk of the first chapter online.