the observer Sun 04 January 2009
Compared with madeleines, molluscs lack literary resonance. But squid here provide an analogy for the physiology of reading; the works of Proust, meanwhile, function as a metaphor for the strange alchemy that takes place inside the reading brain. A cognitive neuroscientist, Maryanne Wolf is also the mother of a dyslexic son. Reading, Wolf reminds us, requires a major neural adaptation; there is nothing "natural" about it at all. Lucid, enthusiastic and justly praised, Proust and the Squid is also timely. The digital age, Wolf suggests, should provoke in us a Socratic scepticism, its mass of unexamined, unweighed words a real cause for concern. Brain Trainers, then, are already over; for synapse-snapping, books are still best.