Life Breaks In: A Mood Almanack

University of Chicago Press
2
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Some books start at point A, take you by the hand, and carefully walk you to point B, and on and on.

This is not one of those books. This book is about mood, and how it works in and with us as complicated, imperfectly self-knowing beings existing in a world that impinges and infringes on us, but also regularly suffuses us with beauty and joy and wonder. You don’t write that book as a linear progression—you write it as a living, breathing, richly associative, and, crucially, active, investigation. Or at least you do if you’re as smart and inventive as Mary Cappello.

What is a mood? How do we think about and understand and describe moods and their endless shadings? What do they do to and for us, and how can we actively generate or alter them? These are all questions Cappello takes up as she explores mood in all its manifestations: we travel with her from the childhood tables of “arts and crafts” to mood rooms and reading rooms, forgotten natural history museums and 3-D View-Master fairytale tableaux; from the shifting palette of clouds and weather to the music that defines us and the voices that carry us. The result is a book as brilliantly unclassifiable as mood itself, blue and green and bright and beautiful, funny and sympathetic, as powerfully investigative as it is richly contemplative.

“I’m one of those people who mistrusts a really good mood,” Cappello writes early on. If that made you nod in recognition, well, maybe you’re one of Mary Cappello’s people; you owe it to yourself to crack Life Breaks In and see for sure.
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About the author

Mary Cappello is professor of English and creative writing at the University of Rhode Island and the author of a number of books, including Awkward: A Detour and Swallow: Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration, and the Curious Doctor Who Extracted Them.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Oct 21, 2016
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Pages
416
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ISBN
9780226356235
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / General
Psychology / General
Science / Cognitive Science
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Product Description
An American half-dollar. A beaded crucifix. Tooth roots shaped like a tiny pair of pants. A padlock. Scads of peanut kernels and scores of safety pins. A metallic letter Z. A toy goat and tin steering wheel. A Perfect Attendance Pin.

One of the most popular attractions in Philadelphia's world-famous Mütter Museum is the Chevalier Jackson Foreign Body Collection: a beguiling set of drawers filled with thousands of items that had been swallowed or inhaled, then extracted nonsurgically by a pioneering laryngologist using rigid instruments of his own design. How do people's mouths, lungs, and stomachs end up filled with inedible things, and what do they become once arranged in Jackson's aura-laden cabinet? What drove Dr. Chevalier Jackson's peculiar obsession not only with removing foreign bodies from people’s upper torsos but also with saving and cataloging the items that he retrieved?

Animating the space between interest and terror, curiosity and dread, award-winning author Mary Cappello explores what seems beyond understanding: the physiology of the human swallow, and the poignant and baffling psychology that compels people to ingest non-nutritive things. On a quest to restore the narratives that haunt Jackson’s uncanny collection, she discovers that all things are secretly edible. Combining original research with a sympathetic and evocative sensibility, Cappello uncovers a history of racism and violence, of forced ingestion and "hysteria," of class and poverty that left children to bank their family’s last quarters in their mouths. Here, the seemingly disparate but equally marvelous worlds of the circus and the medical amphitheater meet in characters ranging from sword swallowers and women who lunched on hardware to the sensitive, bullied boy who grew up to be the father of endoscopy.

Advance Praise
"Swallow is a surprising and original work. It is biography on the slant, a meditation that transcends boundaries and genres, written with scholarship, humor, and panache. I urge you to take this journey." —Ricky Jay

"I was astonished and delighted—grabbed by the throat, indeed—by this most remarkable book, which took me down a thousand little red lanes, and laid out in excruciating and fascinating detail all those myriad of items—corks to safety pins to draughts of lye and three-foot swords—that have managed to pass down there too. It is a wonderful and bizarre book: gorge yourself on it, and gulp.” —Simon Winchester, author of Atlantic: The Biography of an Ocean

"Swallow is a wonderful, intriguing book, a fascinating glimpse into a true medical pioneer and a life's work. Mary Cappello delves into what it means to ingest things we weren’t meant to eat, and how the line between our bodies and foreign bodies can sometimes blur. Every object tells a story, and the stories here are marvelous." —Colin Dickey, author of Crankiolepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius


About the Author
Mary Cappello's three previous books of literary nonfiction are Awkward, a Los Angeles Times bestseller; Called Back, a critical memoir on cancer that won a ForeWord Book of the Year Award and an Independent Publisher Book Award; and the memoir Night Bloom. A recipient of the Bechtel Prize for Educating the Imagination from Teachers and Writers Collaborative and the Dorothea Lange–Paul Taylor Prize from Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, she is a former Fulbright lecturer at the Gorky Literary Institute (Moscow) and currently a professor of English and creative writing at the University of Rhode Island. She lives in Providence.
N. Katherine Hayles is known for breaking new ground at the intersection of the sciences and the humanities. In Unthought, she once again bridges disciplines by revealing how we think without thinking—how we use cognitive processes that are inaccessible to consciousness yet necessary for it to function.

Marshalling fresh insights from neuroscience, cognitive science, cognitive biology, and literature, Hayles expands our understanding of cognition and demonstrates that it involves more than consciousness alone. Cognition, as Hayles defines it, is applicable not only to nonconscious processes in humans but to all forms of life, including unicellular organisms and plants. Startlingly, she also shows that cognition operates in the sophisticated information-processing abilities of technical systems: when humans and cognitive technical systems interact, they form “cognitive assemblages”—as found in urban traffic control, drones, and the trading algorithms of finance capital, for instance—and these assemblages are transforming life on earth. The result is what Hayles calls a “planetary cognitive ecology,” which includes both human and technical actors and which poses urgent questions to humanists and social scientists alike.

At a time when scientific and technological advances are bringing far-reaching aspects of cognition into the public eye, Unthought reflects deeply on our contemporary situation and moves us toward a more sustainable and flourishing environment for all beings.
The first rule of warfare is to know one’s enemy. The second is to know thyself. More than fifteen years and three quarters of a trillion dollars after the US invasion of Afghanistan, it’s clear that the United States followed neither rule well.

America’s goals in Afghanistan were lofty to begin with: dismantle al Qaeda, remove the Taliban from power, remake the country into a democracy. But not only did the mission come completely unmoored from reality, the United States wasted billions of dollars, and thousands of lives were lost. Our Latest Longest War is a chronicle of how, why, and in what ways the war in Afghanistan failed. Edited by historian and Marine lieutenant colonel Aaron B. O’Connell, the essays collected here represent nine different perspectives on the war—all from veterans of the conflict, both American and Afghan. Together, they paint a picture of a war in which problems of culture and an unbridgeable rural-urban divide derailed nearly every field of endeavor. The authors also draw troubling parallels to the Vietnam War, arguing that deep-running ideological currents in American life explain why the US government has repeatedly used armed nation-building to try to transform failing states into modern, liberal democracies. In Afghanistan, as in Vietnam, this created a dramatic mismatch of means and ends that neither money, technology, nor the force of arms could overcome.

The war in Afghanistan has been the longest in US history, and in many ways, the most confounding. Few who fought in it think it has been worthwhile. These are difficult topics for any American or Afghan to consider, especially those who lost friends or family in it. This sobering history—written by the very people who have been fighting the war—is impossible to ignore.
Evolutionary science has long viewed language as, basically, a fortunate accident—a crossing of wires that happened to be extraordinarily useful, setting humans apart from other animals and onto a trajectory that would see their brains (and the products of those brains) become increasingly complex.

But as Michael C. Corballis shows in The Truth about Language, it’s time to reconsider those assumptions. Language, he argues, is not the product of some “big bang” 60,000 years ago, but rather the result of a typically slow process of evolution with roots in elements of grammatical language found much farther back in our evolutionary history. Language, Corballis explains, evolved as a way to share thoughts—and, crucially for human development, to connect our own “mental time travel,” our imagining of events and people that are not right in front of us, to that of other people. We share that ability with other animals, but it was the development of language that made it powerful: it led to our ability to imagine other perspectives, to imagine ourselves in the minds of others, a development that, by easing social interaction, proved to be an extraordinary evolutionary advantage.


Even as his thesis challenges such giants as Chomsky and Stephen Jay Gould, Corballis writes accessibly and wittily, filling his account with unforgettable anecdotes and fascinating historical examples. The result is a book that’s perfect both for deep engagement and as brilliant fodder for that lightest of all forms of language, cocktail party chatter.
Product Description
An American half-dollar. A beaded crucifix. Tooth roots shaped like a tiny pair of pants. A padlock. Scads of peanut kernels and scores of safety pins. A metallic letter Z. A toy goat and tin steering wheel. A Perfect Attendance Pin.

One of the most popular attractions in Philadelphia's world-famous Mütter Museum is the Chevalier Jackson Foreign Body Collection: a beguiling set of drawers filled with thousands of items that had been swallowed or inhaled, then extracted nonsurgically by a pioneering laryngologist using rigid instruments of his own design. How do people's mouths, lungs, and stomachs end up filled with inedible things, and what do they become once arranged in Jackson's aura-laden cabinet? What drove Dr. Chevalier Jackson's peculiar obsession not only with removing foreign bodies from people’s upper torsos but also with saving and cataloging the items that he retrieved?

Animating the space between interest and terror, curiosity and dread, award-winning author Mary Cappello explores what seems beyond understanding: the physiology of the human swallow, and the poignant and baffling psychology that compels people to ingest non-nutritive things. On a quest to restore the narratives that haunt Jackson’s uncanny collection, she discovers that all things are secretly edible. Combining original research with a sympathetic and evocative sensibility, Cappello uncovers a history of racism and violence, of forced ingestion and "hysteria," of class and poverty that left children to bank their family’s last quarters in their mouths. Here, the seemingly disparate but equally marvelous worlds of the circus and the medical amphitheater meet in characters ranging from sword swallowers and women who lunched on hardware to the sensitive, bullied boy who grew up to be the father of endoscopy.

Advance Praise
"Swallow is a surprising and original work. It is biography on the slant, a meditation that transcends boundaries and genres, written with scholarship, humor, and panache. I urge you to take this journey." —Ricky Jay

"I was astonished and delighted—grabbed by the throat, indeed—by this most remarkable book, which took me down a thousand little red lanes, and laid out in excruciating and fascinating detail all those myriad of items—corks to safety pins to draughts of lye and three-foot swords—that have managed to pass down there too. It is a wonderful and bizarre book: gorge yourself on it, and gulp.” —Simon Winchester, author of Atlantic: The Biography of an Ocean

"Swallow is a wonderful, intriguing book, a fascinating glimpse into a true medical pioneer and a life's work. Mary Cappello delves into what it means to ingest things we weren’t meant to eat, and how the line between our bodies and foreign bodies can sometimes blur. Every object tells a story, and the stories here are marvelous." —Colin Dickey, author of Crankiolepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius


About the Author
Mary Cappello's three previous books of literary nonfiction are Awkward, a Los Angeles Times bestseller; Called Back, a critical memoir on cancer that won a ForeWord Book of the Year Award and an Independent Publisher Book Award; and the memoir Night Bloom. A recipient of the Bechtel Prize for Educating the Imagination from Teachers and Writers Collaborative and the Dorothea Lange–Paul Taylor Prize from Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, she is a former Fulbright lecturer at the Gorky Literary Institute (Moscow) and currently a professor of English and creative writing at the University of Rhode Island. She lives in Providence.
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