on 12 May 2012
What a wonderful book!! Brilliant investigation into the science, psychology and hidden world of metaphor in politics, media, therapy, advertising and common usage. The book 'pumps blood' back into the imagistic life of language whilst covering the latest research. I bought the Kindle edition and the notes are accessible to the main text by a quick cursor click. A must for anyone fascinated by metaphor, etymology, psychology and human language and communication.
Sometimes especially helpful information about a book's purposes and structure is provided near its conclusion and that is certainly true of this one as James Geary cites, in the final chapter, what Hart Crane characterizes as "the logic of metaphor" which Geary believes is the logic of human lives. "Metaphor impinges on everything, allowing us - poets and non-poets alike - to experience and think about the world in fluid, unusual ways. Metaphor is the bridge we fling between the utterly strange and the utterly familiar, between dice and drowned men's bones, between I and an other." (Page 226). The book's title refers to Arthur Rimbaud's summary explanation of his working method, "I is an other." Geary views it as Metaphor's defining maxim, its secret formula, and its principal equation" and wrote this book in which he explains how and why metaphors are explicit comparisons of perceived realities.
Here in Dallas, there is a Farmer's Market near the downtown area at which several merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as sample. In that spirit, I now offer a representative selection of brief excerpts from the narrative that suggest the thrust and flavor of Geary's thinking.
o Metaphor "is at work in all fields of human endeavor, from economic and advertising, to politics and business, to science and psychology...Metaphorical thinking -- our instinct not just for describing but for [begin italics] comprehending [end italics] one thing in terms of another, for equating I with an other -- shapes our view of the world, and is essential to how we communicate, learn, discover, and invent. Metaphor is a way of thought long before it is a way with words." (Page 3)
o "The ability to mind-read enables us to understand that what people do is not always what they think; how people act is not always how they feel; and what people mean is nit always what they say, a process akin to pretend play; another activity in which people with ASD [Asperger's Syndrome] have difficulty engaging." (50)
o "Priming experiments are case studies in the vitality of metaphorical language. A metaphor occurs when someone apprehends previously unapprehended relations between things. The metaphor perpetuates this fresh apprehension until, through time, core associations form. These associations cling fast to words themselves, eventually becoming so routine that they continue to appear long after the original relation has ceased to be consciously apprehended." (115)
o "Parables and proverbs feature so prominently in folk wisdom and religious scripture because there is no way to convey spiritual truths other than to set them side by side with natural truths. The numinous is the nitty gritty. I is an other." (196)
o "Synectics consultants use metaphor to spur business innovation; psychotherapists James Lawley and Penny Tompkins use it to inspire psychological insight. Through a process called symbolic modeling, they help clients create and explore metaphors around crucial emotions or personal dilemmas." (208)
Until reading this book, I was unaware of the fact that, as Geary describes it, metaphor "lives a secret life all around us." For example, we utter about one metaphor for every 10-15 words or about six metaphors a minute. I agree with Geary that gaining an understanding of the nature and extent of metaphor's presence in our lives (invoking a simile) is "like reading a book about that process." How important is it to gain that understanding? According to Aristotle, the mastery of metaphorical thinking is "a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies an intuitive perception of the similarity in dissimilars." The reader, for example, and another reader....
on 20 August 2015
An illuminating book, full of fact and resources. It is an "easy" read - although I don't want that to detract from the seriousness of the subject. By easy, I mean that the book is so well written, one does not have to struggle with it, nor with its concepts. Delighted that I bought it. I will certainly use it in my training work, and have already recommended it to many
on 6 September 2011
James Geary's book is a fabulous treatise on the world of metaphor. To be honest I've only just received the book - scanning the contents and reading 'odd' paragraphs here and there, but it is evident that Geary's style is easy to read and it's written with warm wit. (He'd probably have something to say about his wit being warm too!). It has obvious links with Clean Language and I particularly like the fact that he examines metaphor cross-culturally. I can't wait to read it properly! I have bought several books on metaphor over the years (The Magic of Metaphor and More Magic of Metaphor by Nick Owen; Metaphors we live by - George Lakoff & Mark Johnson; The Power of Metaphor by Michael Berman & David Brown; Therapeutic Metaphors by David Gordon; Clean Language: Revealing Metaphors and Opening Minds by Wendy Sullivan and Judy Rees) - and this is certainly the most readable. If I had one criticism it is the title of the book - I'd heard of the book before but the title put me off. Geary does explain where it comes from (the poet Arthur Rimbaud) but I can't help thinking he (or the publishers) could have devised a more compelling version. I do think Geary achieves what it says on the inside cover: "Metaphor has leaped off the page and landed with a mighty splash right in the middle of our stream of consciousness."
on 1 June 2012
The french poet Arthur Rimbaud (1854 - 1891) became famous for his brilliant ability to create worlds saturated with pictures inspired by Baudelaire. His equation "I = Other" became a manifesto for metaphor and more than 100 years later the title of this remarcable book by James Geary (HarperCollins Publishers 2011). Metaphor is not only a fundamental tool in the exercise of language, it is also an essential source of language. Metaphor, however, often do not function, because the advantages and side effects are not really understood.
For those interested in the most dangerous weapon in the world - the language - it is a must to botanize in the nature of metaphor, and to develop a critical approach to the ligamen - i.e. the connection between the source and the target of metaphor - to understand its creative forces and to be aware of its seductive and treacherous potentials. The ambiguous nature of metaphor is illustrated by using a conceptual metaphor, e.g. metaphor is a lens that clarifies and distorts (p. 147). The topping consists of numerous very illustrating examples. It is real fun to read this book!
Per Vagn-Hansen (DK)