‘Being a Human’ one of The Atlantic’s books of the year

by Charles on December 23, 2021

The citation reads (very kindly, from James Parker – thank you so much):

‘Where to start with Charles Foster? How about with a big fat quote from Being a Human? “What keeps brains effective and their owners alive in times of trouble is promiscuous intellectual cross-fertilisation between different domains of one’s own brain, and between the brains of oneself and others. The Neanderthals had neither, and so they died out, victims not, probably, of homicidal Homo sapiens but of cognitive sclerosis.” And then how about following it with another one? “The wood is mourning-band black, with a thorny back. As I push open the iron gate that leads in, the wood stops breathing and starts watching. It has frozen, with one forepaw held in the air.” Being a Human, like Being a Beast, the (also extraordinary) book that preceded it, is both a learned treatise and a kind of visionary journalism; it reports back from the edges of our cramped consciousness, where so much of what keeps us alive (poetry, music, myth, God) is currently making its home. In search of who we are, pursuing his own brand of gonzo neurobiology, Foster flings himself physically into various inhospitable corners of the English countryside—caves, bushes, piles of wet leaves—depriving himself of everyday comforts that his perceptions may be cleansed. And so they are.’

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