Customer Review

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A focus on our heads, and not our brains, 21 Jun. 2009
This review is from: The Kingdom of Infinite Space: A Fantastical Journey Around Your Head (Paperback)
Raymond Tallis knows a lot about the brain and more generally our heads, since he was until recently Professor of Genetic Medicine and remains still today a poet and respected philosopher.
With this book he intended to take us on a trip around our own heads. Not the brain, but the head and it ability to blush, kiss, cry and giggle. The head that also produces tears, ear wax and sounds.
Chapters range from the role of air in breathing and talking, and then on to eating, kissing, and occasionally thinking. So the author has taken on quite a task, but does he succeed?
Firstly, the style of writing is quite informal and non-technical. The book is easy to read and the contents interesting and well discussed. Secondly, we learn lots of interesting details about our own heads. For example we need air to speak, but we are also able to communicate mood, attitude, warning and greeting through our expressions. The author quotes the German philosopher Lichtenberg as saying that the face is the most interesting surface on earth! Just think about the expressiveness of a simple wink. We also learn that our saliva is chemically different depending on its origin - perhaps because of fear or simply hunger. And we are told about the total strangeness and absurdity of smoking.
Thirdly, the author quite rightly underlines how we are identified by our heads, yet it has little to do with our sense of identity. But at times I was left with the feeling that the author felt that the brain was so complex as not to be understandable by science, e.g. "the head is the subject of a near-infinity of facts - more facts that the head could contain".
So this book is not about neuro-philosophy or neuro-biology (or any other neuro-thing) and the brain is not the star of this book. Yet our heads offer plenty of scope for a truly interesting read. I learned that there is a lot more to our heads than is immediately apparent. Although I was often surprised reading this book, yet I will admit that I rarely learned something radically new.
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