During his downtime as a grad student working at a neuroscience lab at Columbia University, Jonah Lehrer often cracked Proust’s Swann’s Way. When he came across the famous moment when the narrator recalled memories from childhood upon biting into a madeleine, his view of neuroscience was upended.
That moment became the catalyst for Lehrer’s exceptionally smart and lucid new book, Proust Was a Neuroscientist (available 11/1). Lehrer, still disgustingly young (in his mid-twenties) but now an editor-at-large of SEED magazine, focuses on eight artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries (five writers, a painter, a composer, and a chef) and explains in easily digestible prose how each of them had a central insight that anticipated modern neuroscience: Walt Whitman understood that the flesh was the source of meaning; Auguste Escoffier discovered that taste is actually a smell; Paul Cézanne realized that the brain can decipher an image from minimal brushstrokes.
Not only will Proust Was a Neuroscientist give you fresh perspective on groundbreaking artists, but it can also help you understand the cutting edge of the science of the mind — enabling you to feel smarter in two ways.
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