Blue Cats And Chartreuse Kittens: How Synesthetes Color Their World

Patricia Lynne Duffy
ISBN:
0716740885

Imagine a world in which words have colors and sounds have tastes. In his autobiography, Vladimir Nabokov described this neurological phenomenon, which helped inspire David Hockney's sets for the Metropolitan Opera. Richard Feynman experienced it while formulating the quantum theory that won him a Nobel Prize. Sometimes described as a blending of perceptions, synesthesia occurs when only one of the fives senses is aroused but two respond. Journalist Patricia Lynne Duffy draws from her own struggles and breakthroughs with synesthesia to help us better understand the condition, while describing some of the major theories surrounding it. An illuminating examination of the world of synesthetes, Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens is a must-read for science and health buffs, as well as for artists, writers, and creative thinkers-or anyone generally intrigued by the brain, the senses, and perception. Patricia Lynne Duffy's essays and articles have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, New York Newsday, The Village Voice, The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Ms., and many other magazines and newspapers. She is an officer of the United Nations Society of Writers and a co-founder of and a consultant to the American Synesthesia Association. She lives in New York City. Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens is an illuminating examination of the world of synesthetes. Imagine a world in which words have colors and sounds have tastes. In his autobiography, Vladimir Nabokov described this neurological phenomenon, which helped inspire David Hockney's sets for the Metropolitan Opera. Richard Feynman experienced it while formulating the quantum theory that won him a Nobel Prize. Sometimes described as a blending of perceptions, synesthesia occurs when only one of the fives senses is aroused but two respond. Journalist Patricia Lynne Duffy draws from her own struggles and breakthroughs with synesthesia to help us better understand the condition, while describing some of the major theories surrounding it. 'A thought-provoking glimpse at how much is lurking in other people's minds and how little we know about it.' Detroit Free Press'Not only moving and evocative, but historical and scientific . . . Duffy's account persuades me that we should regard [synesthesia] . . . as a gift.' Simon Baron-Cohen, Cambridge University, Department of Experimental Psychology and Psychiatry, Cerebrum'A fun and worthwhile read. Whether you're a nonsynesthete amused by colored words and shapely smells or a synesthete annoyed with the notion of 'cat' being a blue word (when it's clearly brown), either way you'll shake your head and marvel . . . One of the pleasures of Blue Cats is that Duffy lavishes time on details that a lot of her nonsynesthete predecessors failed to properly appreciate. She doesn't just mention that letters have colors, she analyzes how those colors blend and mutate when they find themselves side by side in a word. She explores the way many synesthetes organize the world spatially. Numbers, for instance, are often fixed in space on what she calls a 'number trail.' Years, months and days of the week all have not only colors but shapes and patterns as well a very particularly tilted loop, for instance, or an endless roller coaster. Through interviews with others with various forms of the condition painters, a photographer, a composer, a mathematician Duffy examines the phenomenon of synesthesia thoroughly and lucidly.' Alison Motluk, Salon.com'Research suggests that one in 2,000 people experience synesthesia; for Duffy, letters (and the words they combine to produce) have color (hence, Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens). It took technology like PET scans to confirm the unusual brain patterns of synesthesia, but some artists of the past Liszt, Rimbaud, and Nabokov, for example seem to have experienced it. Duffy describes her own experience and that of several contemporary artists in examining this phenomenon as a special case of the 'personal coding' scientists now recognize as a vital aspect of brain development.' Mary Carroll, Booklist

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