Mushrooms, Strange, Night
The fact that you and I and everyone else are inhaling lungfuls of fungal spores with every breath we take is enough for hypochondriacs to run screaming to the hills, but that’s not the only gruesomeness possible with the Kingdom Fungi. Cordyceps species parasitize ants, tormenting the hapless insects with epileptic seizures before growing out of their heads. Madurella can invade feet causing “moth-eaten” bones. Fungi can rot plants, engage in strange sexual orgies, spread themselves over thousands of acres, and cause “demonic possessions” (hallucinations).
With Nicholas P. Money‘s Mr. Bloomfield’s Orchard we find these sorts of macabre things and more–all told with the same loving amusement a horror fanatic might have for H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu. Although I might have to warn you, unless you are science-minded or just plain tenacious, you might find some of the explanation sections more bewildering than fascinating.
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The World of Edward Gorey by Clifford Ross and Karen Wilkin is not a substitute for any of Gorey’s books despite the numerous reproductions of his illustrations. What it is, though, is a companion book–it’s an attempt at explaining Gorey. Despite the weird, creepy Edwardian world he has drawn, Gorey wasn’t British at all. In fact, everything is a synthesis of what he had accumulated by reading–for most of his life, Gorey entrenched himself in Cape Cod. Allusions in his work range from the easy to the arcane.
What was most interesting about this book was not Wilkin’s in depth analysis of Gorey’s work (although the deconstruction of his books, illustrations, and theater props were intriguing), but Ross’s interview with the artist. How can you not like an eccentric who thinks Manet “wrecked painting forever” and doesn’t think he’s collaborating in collaborations, but likes Batman cartoons?
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In this society where sleep is becoming less and less of a priority, William Dement in The Sleepwatchers warns us that it is dangerous to take such an approach on life. With a mixture of near evangelical zeal and humorous personal anecdotes, Dement documents the discovery of REM sleep, the identification of sleep disorders, and the role of the biological clock in our sleep cycles. He also speculates on the meaning of dreams and recounts the daily stresses of running a laboratory–mainly attempting to get funding.
What I found the most thought-provoking was the notion that people in modern society carry a “sleep debt.” Because people have less sleep than they need, say even 7.5 vs. 8 hours, all those minutes can accumulate for days, weeks, even months which pretty much means everyone is sleep deprived and at a suboptimum level of awakeness. It makes one wonder if anyone should be driving let alone operating heavy machinery.