Published in hardback by Yale University Press, priced £18.99
Forgetting is an odd thing: everyone does it, but by definition cannot discuss it in much detail. Dutch psychologist and ‘memory scholar’ Draaisma makes a game attempt to explore this paradox from numerous viewpoints.
Standalone chapters create a suitably episodic feel, covering everything from the predictable – dreams; Alzheimer’s – to ‘forgotten’ characters of the subject’s history, including a moving piece on Henry M., whose lobotomy-induced partial amnesia led to his brain becoming the most studied of the 20th century.
The breadth of sources (literature, history, sociology, anecdote…) occasionally bring an uneven tone but Draaisma is always engaging, a
keen sense of irony and down-to-earth sensibility lifting it above the dryly academic, even when rebuking Freud in a slightly confused dissection of repression.
What emerges through the disparate chapters is a fittingly amorphous but striking depiction of the gaps in our mind, and why what really
matters is the stuff in between.