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Culture Tip: To Rise Again at a Decent Hour

Culture Tip: To Rise Again at a Decent Hour

This week's Culture Tip is the first, and may possibly be the last, to incite in me an urgent need to increase dental flossing. Joshua Ferris’s new novel To Rise Again at a Decent Hour follows anti-hero, Paul O’Rourke, who is a Red Sox fan, an avowed atheist and an acclaimed New York dentist with a thriving practice. He is a man who cares deeply about oral hygiene and his pain at his patients’ dental deterioration is palpable. He is impotent in the face of a prolific alter ego who, it seems, might just be a kinder, nicer and far from agnostic him. Paul...
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Andrew Solomon's Ode to Identity

Andrew Solomon's Ode to Identity

Andrew Solomon spent 10 years talking to more than 300 families about their children to discover what it means when your child is radically different to you, when the apple does, to contradict the saying,  “fall far from the tree”. This incredible project has won him the Wellcome Book Prize 2014. He was drawn to this subject following a journalistic assignment at a dwarf convention, but it was also because he felt so different from  his own parents. First of all as a seriously dyslexic boy whose mother worked tirelessly to get him help; secondly, as a gay man,...
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"Head in a Car Crusher": Understanding Autism

"Head in a Car Crusher": Understanding Autism

When I first started to work with people on the autistic spectrum, I was given a very bad piece of advice: because the brains of people with autism were damaged, one should not listen to what they had to say. The implication was that they had nothing useful to contribute. I repeat this now only because it highlights how completely our perspective on autism has been challenged and redirected by the autobiographical accounts of such courageous people as Temple Grandin, Donna Williams and many others, presenting us with the view from the inside. Starting as a...
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Culture tip: The Reason I Jump

Culture tip: The Reason I Jump

Knowing what we’re really thinking is an elusive enough goal, knowing what someone else has on their mind is harder still, and what if that person thinks in an entirely different way? That’s often how the minds of people with autism are depicted: qualitatively different and impossible to understand. The Reason I Jump breaks through a lot of the misconceptions surrounding autism and gives an insight into how the author, a person with autism himself, sees the world. Translated, and featuring a forward, by acclaimed author David Mitchell, the book is a combination of...
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Let’s Do Lunch – in a Graveyard

Let’s Do Lunch – in a Graveyard

When I tell people that, for four years, I have spent most of my spare time in graveyards, they always look a little alarmed. They shouldn’t. In the process of writing and researching my book Finding the Plot: 100 Graves to Visit Before You Die, I have visited scores of graveyards: grand and tiny, Victorian and modern, manicured and tumbledown.  Not depressing, nor weird, they are fascinating places with so many things to notice: those names (like Myrtle, Ethel etc) you’d forgotten existed, intriguing epitaphs, and some amazing monuments which, in places such as Highgate in...
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Culture Tip: The Circle

Culture Tip: The Circle

I was racing through Dave Eggers' The Circle over Christmas and enjoying it so much, I just had to tweet something about it. But what? "Am loving the way this book makes social media sound like a totalitarian state #1984"  Or "Mister Cool Dave Eggers is acting like a technophobic dinosaur" Or simply "Step away from the screens!"? To explain. This novel is about a young woman, Mae Holland,  who gets a job at a Google-(or is it Facebook?)like company and gets drawn further and further into a technological takeover of her life. What starts out as social...
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CULTURE TIP: The Luminaries

CULTURE TIP: The Luminaries

Not everyone is going to love the Man Booker Prize-winning blockbuster, The Luminaries. But I did. And not only because the author is a New Zealander (as I am), and the youngest person to ever scoop the £50,000 jackpot. It’s a deep, rich treasure of a book with an empathetic heart. Perfect for the longeuers of Christmas in front of a fire. Set in the 1860s, it starts with a mysterious combination of occurrences: a rich young landowner has disappeared, a prostitute has tried to kill herself, and a large sum of money is found in the house of a dying man. A dozen locals...
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Malcom Gladwell on his Experience of Therapy

Malcom Gladwell on his Experience of Therapy

Malcolm Gladwell is the best-selling author of The Tipping Point, Blink and David and Goliath; he recently spoke with Louise Chunn about his experience of psychoanalysis. “My mother is a psychotherapist, she deals with children. As an adult I was in therapy for a few years.  How did I find it? I don’t think you can spend a lot of time in guided introspection with someone who is a trained professional and not emerge in some way wiser about yourself …. though I don’t know if I was any  happier. “I live in New York where it seems that everyone is in therapy, so I...
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