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Publishers WeeklyStarred Review.
Tallis, a UK poet, novelist, philosopher and professor of geriatric medicine, here combines his talents to produce a ponderous, celebratory tour of the human head which, while thorough, avoids the other-worldly complexities of the brain. Instead, Tallis (The Hand: A Philosophical Inquiry into Human Being) fills his essays with a curious and personal mix of bio-mechanics, philosophy and wonder: "the head harvests sights and sounds and smells and tastes; sequesters indoor and outdoor, private and public, urban and rural air; and ingests food and drink and medicines and worse. And its outputs are as impressively varied." He examines each sense in detail, along with functions such as smiling, blushing, breathing and kissing in playfully-titled chapters ("Head Traffic: Eating, Vomiting and Smoking"). Tallis's mix of history, etymology, literature and science, along with his infectious enthusiasm ("Our ability to pick sounds out of a background of other sounds... is the equivalent of picking out all the ripples associated with one raindrop from a puddle in a downpour") leads him to many interesting points. Readers looking for a thoughtful assessment of what's right behind their noses-without all the tedious neurology-will find this an entertaining, eye-opening experience.
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