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Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older
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  • 25 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 0 pages

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 (ISBN-13: 9780511252723)

Is it true, as the novelist Cees Nooteboom once wrote, that 'Memory is like a dog that lies down where it pleases'? Where do the long, lazy summers of our childhood go? Why is it that as we grow older time seems to condense, speed up, elude us, while in old age significant events from our distant past can seem as vivid and real as what happened yesterday? In this enchanting and thoughtful book, Douwe Draaisma, author of the internationally acclaimed Metaphors of Memory, explores the nature of autobiographical memory. Applying a unique blend of scholarship, poetic sensibility and keen observation he tackles such extraordinary phenomena as déjà-vu, near-death experiences, the memory feats of idiot-savants and the effects of extreme trauma on memory recall. Raising almost as many questions as it answers, this fascinating book will not fail to touch you at the same time as it educates and entertains.

• Explores the nature of autobiographical memory covering everything from first memories, traumatic memories, extraordinary feats of memory to smell, déjà-vu and flashbulb memories • Draws on a unique combination of historical scholarship, scientific research and everyday experience • Written in an accessible, original and engaging style


1. 'Memory is like a dog that lies down where it pleases'; 2. Flashes in the dark: first memories; 3. Smell and memory; 4. Yesterday's record; 5. The inner flashbulb; 6. 'Why do we remember forwards and not backwards?' 7. The absolute memories of Funes and Sherashevsky; 8. The advantages of a defect: the savant syndrome; 9. The memory of a grandmaster: a conversation with Ton Sijbrands; 10. Trauma and memory: the Demjanjuk case; 11. Richard and Anna Wagner: forty-five years of married life; 12. 'In oval mirrors we drive around': on experiencing a sense of déjà vu; 13. Reminiscences; 14. Why life speeds up as you get older; 15. Forgetting; 16. 'I saw my life flash before me'; 17. From memory - Portrait with Still Life.


'It is a joy to read with chapters on déjà vu, savants, trauma and first to last memories, providing a fresh and cogent look at how and why we remember.' Publishing News

'Douwe Draaisma, a historian of psychology based in the Netherlands, has set out to report on a medley of scientific accounts of memory and experienced time with an eye for the bizarre. The result is a potpourri of a book, incorporating philosophy, neuroscience, case history, research, potted biography.' Sunday Times

'This is a book of many metaphors and some explanations, beautifully written and engaging from beginning to end.' The Oldie Magazine

'… full of fascinating, sexy, scientific concepts.' The Times

'… delightful … His concerns range from the extraordinary memories and calculating powers of so-called idiot savants to the strange sensation of déjà vu, and the 'flashbulb memory' that apparently enables so many of us to recall what we were doing when we first heard of Diana's death (or in my case, Thatcher's resignation). It is for the richness of these anecdotes, and the sophistication with which he weaves them into his account, that Draaisma's book makes such a pleasing read.' The Guardian

'… a highly readable and erudite account of autobiographical memory … A rich book for holiday reading.' Scientific and Medical Network

'Draaisma's exploration of how our lives are shaped by the remembered past is a wry and literate investigation of the history of psychology and of the human condition. The result is informative, amusing and moving. Long after you close it, it leaves a good memory.' New Scientist

'… one finishes the book with a heightened awareness of the complexity and the fickleness of human memory, and a genuine sense of pleasure at having encountered such a subtle, entertaining, and illuminating guide to the territory.' The Times Literary Supplement

'… fascinating.' Independent

'… clarity and accessibility for a general audience … He is a terrific writer, whose erudition and passion for the topic are apparent in every page.' Nature Medicine

'Draaisma writes beautifully, and this book is simply a joy to read … the writing of this book has a wistful, thought-provoking, gnomic quality, a lightness of touch, a gentle rhythm, a willingness to reflect and to share its author's own memories, the slightest sense of a worldweariness coupled with an endless curiosity for the nooks and crannies of human experience and a simply carried wisdom, all reminiscent of the great essayists. … this book is a wonderful read, its self-contained chapters being perfect for reading at leisure, to amuse, to provoke and to reflect on.' The Times Higher Education Supplement

'… charming collection of essays. Combining impressive scholarship in the history of psychology and contemporary research with a poetic touch … this is a fine collection for memory lovers who will appreciate the facts it contains as well as the rich metaphors.' Nature

'What causes déjà vu - and what would it be like to have a perfect memory? Prof Draaisma brings real-life case studies and research to bear on such questions in a collection of essays whose style is reminiscent of the late Stephen Jay Gould (though mercifully without the latter's tedious weebling).' Daily Telegraph

'Draaisma's exploration of how our lives are shaped by the remembered past is a wry and literate investigation of the history of psychology and of the human condition. The result is informative, amusing and moving. Long after you close it, it leaves a good memory.' New Scientist

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