Fritz Kahn was a popular science writer who was most prolific in the ‘20s and ‘30s. His masterwork was Das Leben des Menschen, a five volume study of human biology which appeared between 1922 and 1931. As with all his works – and Kahn continued to write about many different fields of science right up until the early 1960s – these volumes were heavily illustrated.
To explain the art of thinking, Konnikova uses the metaphor of the mind as an attic in which memories are filed away. The metaphor works well. The reader will readily understand that attics contain important and less important memories and that some places in the attic are more accessible than others. There is also the problem of remembering where one has placed certain items — memory retrieval. But there is much more to learning how to think than how one deals with memories.
But it was always an embattled book, representing at various times, “too much Catholicism,” “too much Protestantism,” too much tradition, too much irreverence toward tradition, too limited in its reach or too inclusive as to be almost wimpy and unclear, an example of the poetic beauty of the English language, or too old-fashioned, incomprehensible, and quaint in its language. It was a thing that symbolized something to be rebelled against or something to be upheld.
Larrimore goes on to show how mistranslations, lack of knowledge of Hebrew, lost or wrongly-placed passages, the translator’s choice of words, emotional state, ethical temperaent, misconceptions about the idea of “patience,” the interpreter’s acquaintance (or lack thereof) with grief and suffering, and a saccharine idea of Job have affected the book’s history.
The stories are honest and open, going into a great deal of detail about exactly what the couples had been through – both in terms of their own experience, and in terms of each other. The stories are well-balanced and broad, exploring a wide range of stories from younger couples to older ones, a single parent, parents who struggle with the finances, parents who found IVF reasonably straightforward, and those who continue to struggle with unsatisfying outcomes.
One of the main premises of the book is that we can always change, and that we not only deserve to enjoy our lives and live creatively and powerfully, it’s our responsibility to try and do so. If that seems facile or new-agey, it certainly isn’t. It’s very easy to go down a specific career path and begin building up an image that is self-limiting and unsatisfying. Doing the exercises will take readers through a range of life areas including one’s career, one’s social life, one’s financial needs, one’s physical well-being, spirituality, and the community.
Could a full-length novel result from an accumulation of five minute exercises? Maybe an episodic one. Of the seventeen “Student Contributors” whose exercises Abercrombie includes, only two are working on novels; the others are working on memoirs.
The book is lucid, easy-to-read, and illuminating, even for those who already define themselves as secular humanists. However, at times, despite the warmth and underlying sense of humour that pervades the book, there’s a kind of knowing superiority that can be a little hard to give into wholeheartedly.
Overall, this new Kama Sutra edition is readable for most audiences. It offers ways that men and women can appreciate each other at all aspects in life.
Though all of the book is fascinating, uniting as it does, a travelogue with a history of science (and broader history as it moves through World War I and II – at one point even taking us into a fighter cockpit), scientific analysis, and a kind of New Scientist styled look at astronomy and astrobiology, the chapter titled “The Ultimate Journey” is one of the most beautifully written and poignant.