The Frontal Cortex

The Tour

It’s nice to be back home. I had a really wonderful time on the book tour, but it’s nice to return to my boring routine. I’d like to thank everyone who came out to hear me talk. To be honest, I expected to be speaking to empty rooms. After all, why would anyone want to listen to me? So I was incredibly flattered and gratified by the crowds. My favorite part of the tour, without a doubt, were the questions from the audience. They were always thought-provoking, challenging, and insightful. I only wish I had better answers.

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Photo by Lori Duff

Comments

  1. #1 Kevin Eisenmann
    November 15, 2007

    I only wish I could have found about the tour earlier! Sorry I missed it, but I already am enjoying the book…

  2. #2 mike c
    November 15, 2007

    particpants here in seattle were enthusiastic, as were others all along the tour, and the questions were “thought-provoking, challenging, and insightful” – which is only to be expected. that’s what audiences are for! after all, if an author doesn’t write to answer the audience’s questions, what then?

    or, as scotty reston of the new york times once said, ‘if i can’t read what i write, how do i know what i think?’

  3. #3 margot
    November 17, 2007

    Just wanted to tell you that I love the book. I can’t decide if I’ve learned more about art or science from reading it…

  4. #4 Melissa Albin
    November 18, 2007

    I saw you in Seattle and loved your lecture. The book is amazing! Please don’t forget you promised to come back next year.

  5. #5 peggy
    November 19, 2007

    I enjoyed your talk in Seattle, and am excited to read your book. Now that you have said your favorite part of the tour was answering questions from the audience, I have a couple of naive ones for you. I don’t ask questions in public because I think my questions are naive and of no interest to people with more knowledge of the subject. And when one hasn’t done the homework (i.e., read the book), it is even worse. But here are my questions, off the public record:
    1) In addition to the writers you mention in your book(too bad you had to leave Coleridge out!) as anticipatory of inquiry into/knowledge about how the brain works, all of whom are part of the literary canon of the past, are there any contemporary writers who you think might be exploring the mind and subjectivity in anticipatory and/or original ways? You mentioned one guy during your talk in Seattle, but the name was unfamiliar and I have forgetten it.

    2) On the relationship between language and the way we perceive reality (the Safir-Worff hypothesis). And here I am truly blushing at the naïveté of my question: Since I studied Déscartes, Liebnitz, Saussère, Chomsky and others back in graduate school 25 years and another life ago, I have become bilingual. I lived in France for 22 years and am now a translator. The average French person sees me as someone who speaks their language as they do, perhaps with a slight accent, so I suppose I am bilingual, even though I have problems with what that means exactly. However, my subjective experience of reality is the same whether I am speaking (or self-talking or dreaming) in French or in English, at least as far as I can tell. What does this suggest about the relationship between language and reality (or simply about me?)? And here’s a weird thing: Sometimes I catch myself daydreaming and have to trace my thoughts back to “remember” if my stream on thought was in English or French. And sometimes when I listen to the radio and then play it back in my brain, I have to think about whether the original was in French or in English, because my brain seems to process it into one language or the other without my being aware of it. Maybe the question for public consumption would be: what does bilingualism tell us about the brain, subjectivity and our apprehension of reality?

    You probably understand now why I do not allow myself to ask questions in public settings!
    Thanks for any thoughts the above may inspire.
    Sincerely,
    Peggy

  6. #6 Jonah
    November 19, 2007

    Those are great questions, Peggy! I only wish I had better answers. In terms of contemporary writers…There are so many. The writers I probably mentioned in my talk were Richard Powers and Ian McEwan, both of whom are sensitive to the mind and science and have grounded their previous fictions in scientific fact. In terms of the bilingual brain…I think cognitive neuroscientists are being to learn a lot about how the brain processes language from people who speak more than one language. One of the more interesting findings is that, if you learn a second language as an adult, you will never process it in the same way as your first language, which you learned as a child. Per the Whorf hypothesis…I can only refer you to Steven Pinker, who has a very lucid discussion of the modern scientific understanding/critique of the Whorfian hypothesis in his latest book, the The Stuff of Thought. To make a long story short, a weak version of the Whorfian hypothesis is probably true. Thanks for coming to my talk in Seattle!

  7. #7 peggy
    November 20, 2007

    Thanks for your responses. The name you mentioned in Seattle was Richard Powers. I have been a fan of McEwan’s ever since I read one of his first novels, called The Cement Garden, I think, about 25 years ago. I was blown away by Enduring Love, with its psychologically chilling and authentic account of de Clerambault’s Syndrome. And of course, Atonement, which made me think of V. Woolf from the first sentence. Have you read any of J.M. Coetzee’s work? He has a similar fidelity to precision and psychological honesty, and also writes beautifully.
    You’ve given me food for thought on the bilingual question as well.
    By the way, I chided Seattle’s blog (Metroblog Seattle or something like that) after the fact for plugging Lou Dobbs upstairs at Town Hall while failing to mention your appearance. They apologized profusely and promised not to make the same omission next time. So please do come back! Rainy Seattle loves writers and books.

  8. #8 Mado
    December 1, 2007

    We may have the same sweater.

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