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Distracting obsessive-compulsive behaviors are bad, but a lover's or artist's obsession is revered in contemporary society. How did we achieve this split in our review of obsession? In this sometimes humorous but often pedantic survey, Davis (My Sense of Silence: Memoirs of a Childhood with Deafness) explores how, in the mid-18th century, obsession went from being seen as possession by demons to a nervous disorder, an increasingly medicalized view. By the late-20th century, researchers used brain scans and other medical technology in an attempt to discover why one in every 10 persons is diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Davis contends that obsession arises from a constellation of biological and cultural forces. Throughout his study, he offers compelling examples of his thesis through close readings of novels such as William Godwin's Caleb Williams, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Emile Zola's The Masterpiece, among others, as the fictional expressions of their authors' obsessions with certain cultural ideas. Davis acknowledges but dismisses the charge that he uses the word "obsession" loosely, and his academic approach limits the book's audience. 17 b&w illus. (Nov.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.