Catalogue


Faith, madness, and spontaneous human combustion : what immunology can teach us about self-perception /
Gerald N. Callahan.
edition
1st ed.
imprint
New York : Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2002.
description
xvii, 235 p. : 22 cm.
ISBN
0312268076
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2002.
isbn
0312268076
catalogue key
4761000
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [229]-235).
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Gerald N. Callahan, Ph.D., is a professor of immunology at Colorado State University. He has more than thirty years of experience in modern biomedical research. His science articles have appeared in Nature, Journal of Experimental Medicine, and Journal of Immunology. Callahan is also a poet and essayist, and his writings have been published by Creative Nonfiction, Southern Poetry Review, and Cream City Review
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2001-12-17:
Combining science and personal anecdote is no easy task, and Callahan's ambitious look at the relationship between immunology and selfhood falls somewhat short of the mark. Callahan a poet, essayist and Colorado State University professor of immunology aims to show how the immune system literally and metaphorically forms the basis for our identity. Weaving together bits of memoir, case studies of unusual incidents like human combustion and virally transmitted insanity, and basic explanations of immunology, Callahan shows how the immune system's main function to distinguish between self and nonself, to defend the body from invaders not only determines the boundaries of the basic biological "self" but can metaphorically be applied to our psychological selves as well. Discussing the concept of immunological memory, for instance, Callahan writes, "Enveloped viruses... are so named because they carry with them an `envelope' of lipids and proteins taken from the host cell.... Each time we give the flu to our wives or our cold sores to our husbands, we also give them a little bit of ourselves." These metaphors unfortunately tend to be simplistic and pat. Those reading the book for straightforward scientific information or Oliver Sacks-style medical curiosities will probably be frustrated by the impressionistic prose and meandering narrative. While there are fascinating facts here, as well as some genuinely engaging recollections from Callahan's life, these are interspersed with self-indulgent whimsy. An unusual attempt at genre crossing, the book would have been better off as a traditional memoir without the popular science conceit. (Jan.) Forecast: Callahan is being marketed as a successor to Oliver Sacks, but he lacks Sacks's gift for engaging narrative. Not a comfortable fit in any category and unlikely to be a crossover hit. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, December 2001
Booklist, January 2002
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
Personal, poetic, and anchored by research, Faith, Madness, and Spontaneous Human Combustionis a provocative look at the startling ways in which modern science shapes our identities. At the heart of modern medical science lies the soul of self-perception. In this book, scientist and poet Gerald Callahan reveals what science has uncovered, sometimes unwittingly, about us-where we begin, how we grow, why we die, and what comes afterward. An immunologist, Callahan dissects the immune system to reveal its most intimate underpinnings-the selves hidden inside our thymuses, the pieces of others lodged in our lymph nodes, the gift of human death, and the fires that burn inside our bodies. From the seemingly sterile voice of science come the words that define each of us. We are singular men and women only because we have immune systems. When immune systems fail, people disappear, and in their places arise communities of living things. Buried inside our genes and our lymphocytes science has found faith and love, madness, and the fierceness of human beings. In Faith, Madness, and Spontaneous Human Combustion, Callahan uses research and personal anecdotes to examine these complex issues, proving ultimately that rigorous scientific facts can be intensely intimate.
Main Description
Personal, poetic, and anchored by research, Faith, Madness, and Spontaneous Human Combustion is a provocative look at the startling ways in which modern science shapes our identities. At the heart of modern medical science lies the soul of self-perception. In this book, scientist and poet Gerald Callahan reveals what science has uncovered, sometimes unwittingly, about us-where we begin, how we grow, why we die, and what comes afterward. An immunologist, Callahan dissects the immune system to reveal its most intimate underpinnings-the selves hidden inside our thymuses, the pieces of others lodged in our lymph nodes, the gift of human death, and the fires that burn inside our bodies. From the seemingly sterile voice of science come the words that define each of us. We are singular men and women only because we have immune systems. When immune systems fail, people disappear, and in their places arise communities of living things. Buried inside our genes and our lymphocytes science has found faith and love, madness, and the fierceness of human beings. In Faith, Madness, and Spontaneous Human Combustion, Callahan uses research and personal anecdotes to examine these complex issues, proving ultimately that rigorous scientific facts can be intensely intimate.
Main Description
Personal, poetic, and anchored by research,Faith, Madness, and Spontaneous Human Combustionis a provocative look at the startling ways in which modern science shapes our identities. At the heart of modern medical science lies the soul of self-perception. In this book, scientist and poet Gerald Callahan reveals what science has uncovered, sometimes unwittingly, about us-where we begin, how we grow, why we die, and what comes afterward. An immunologist, Callahan dissects the immune system to reveal its most intimate underpinnings-the selves hidden inside our thymuses, the pieces of others lodged in our lymph nodes, the gift of human death, and the fires that burn inside our bodies. From the seemingly sterile voice of science come the words that define each of us. We are singular men and women only because we have immune systems. When immune systems fail, people disappear, and in their places arise communities of living things. Buried inside our genes and our lymphocytes science has found faith and love, madness, and the fierceness of human beings. InFaith, Madness, and Spontaneous Human Combustion, Callahan uses research and personal anecdotes to examine these complex issues, proving ultimately that rigorous scientific facts can be intensely intimate.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. xiii
Self-Creationp. 1
Chimerap. 3
Self and Antiselfp. 19
Eating Dirtp. 37
Self-Defensep. 59
Self-Improvementp. 81
Light and Shadowp. 83
Watermarksp. 99
The Flame Withinp. 117
Madnessp. 135
Self-Transformationp. 151
Acorns of Faithp. 153
Forgiving the Fatherp. 179
Saved by Deathp. 197
The Metamorphosisp. 211
Epiloguep. 227
Sourcesp. 229
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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