The Enchanted World of Sleep – Peretz Lavie

As you can see to the right, I finally finished Peretz Lavie’s The Enchanted World of Sleep. Lavie only gets really technical in a few chapters, but for the most part his look at the science of sleep is a pleasant “lay person” read. What did I learn?
* Before electrodes, scientists used to measure the moment of sleep when a patient would drop a tennis ball from their hand. In my case, it’s a shot glass, but the theory is the same.
* There are 4 stages of sleep, and then REM sleep, and that’s when dreams come. It’s also when we lose all muscle control. When waking up from dreams, people usually go to another stage. However, in very rare cases, people can awake in the no-muscle contol part and feel like they’re paralyzed. I hope this never happens to me–how freaky is that!
* There is no set time to sleep. If you can survive on 6 hours a night, then you need 6 hours of sleep. People who sleep 10 hours per night aren’t necessarily more rested. In fact, they’re probably more sleepy.
* I really wish the test case in their dream research, Mr. R, would publish a book. He could wake up from REM sleep and recount long, short-story like dream narratives. They reprint one in the book and it’s very good.
* Animals don’t have REM sleep, but they do dream, and that stage is called paradoxical sleep (meaning the animal is most at rest, but also most active in the brain.)
* The world record for going without sleep is 264 hours.
The last third of the book is on sleep disorders, namely insomnia, jet lag, sleep walking, sleep apnea, and narcolepsy. He also has some good things to say about children and when they “should” go to bed. A majority of parents force their kids to go to sleep at 8 p.m. so the adults can watch TV or whatever, then appear amazed that their children won’t sleep at the chosen time, or that they then wake up at 5 a.m. Thankfully, I was never raised that way…and that’s why I’m writing about this book to an audience of three people at 2:36 a.m.
Anyway, I also finished the MOJO magazine special on the Beatles early years. That might still be hanging around some newsstands. You’d think there wasn’t much left to say about the Beatles, but because the writing staff is so good (Mark Lewishom is on there among other major music journalists) they have some insightful things to say, none of which I can remember right now. I can get stuck into The Iliad, which seems appropriate in this season of war and suffering.

More for the bookpile!

More for the bookpile! Just when I thought I had tamed the number of books waiting for me to read (not helped by myself either), here comes a lightning visit by my friend Scott, bringing me two gifts: We’re Desperate: The Punk Rock Photography of Jim Jocoy, SF/LA 1978-1980, a photograpic anthropological study of the original punks, and City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled City. Fortunately, they’re both photo-heavy so “reading” them will be a breeze.

What’s Become of Waring – Anthony Powell

Anthony Powell waits for the rice to be done.
Image from the Anthony Powell site.

I finished up Anthony Powell‘s What’s Become of Waring, given to me by a certain Mr. C_____, who is a dear fan of his later A Dance to the Music of Time. The novel is set in something like pre-war Britain and follows, in a very laid-back –embarrassments and loves of the upper class–British Comedy way, the efforts of a book editor to track down the title character, a famous writer of travel books who may or may not be dead or real or a plagiarist. Before I read it, I thought the plot sounded a bit post-modern, or even a bit Pynchon-esque, but after reading I realise 1936 is really too early for that sort of narrative. It’s more a shaggy dog story that a deep examination of identity
Very gentle humor, lots of comedy of manners from an age long gone by, characters with names like Winefred, you get the picture.
Some interesting facts about Mr. Powell (that’s pronounced “Pole”): His nephew-in-law is Harold Pinter, one of my favorite playrights. Also, he really liked his own homemade curry, although I disagree on using butter with cooked rice. On the other hand I’ll give him a break because for one thing he’s dead, and the other is I bet he didn’t own an electric rice cooker.
So what should I read next?