"A short history of everything that is going on inside our heads."by Andy Martin / July 14, 2016 / Leave a comment
Capture: Unravelling the Mystery of Mental Suffering by David A Kessler (Penguin, £14.99)
I have a soft spot for books that adventurously aim to include just about everything—like a vast intellectual encyclopedia or compendium. Capture is one of that distinguished genre. It’s a short history of everything going on in our heads. In fact, it is more than that. If you think of classic theorists like Marx and Freud, they will generally tell you that everything can really be boiled down to x (economics or sex). Kessler goes one step further in explaining why it is we have this habit of thinking obsessively in terms of x, whether for good or ill. And it is so often ill.
There is no such thing as an addictive personality, Kessler argues: we all have an addictive brain, a monomaniacal cognitive mechanism liable to get hooked on any object. Thus existential angst is looped in, synaptically speaking, to binge-eating and alcoholism.
Some of the subjects encompassed in this captivating book include David Foster Wallace, anorexia, Sylvia Plath, Ludwig Wittgenstein, romantic yearning, Franz Kafka, why we eat too many pizzas, heroin, suicide, John Belushi, jihadism, obscene phone calls and the murder of John Lennon.
You might protest that everything that Kessler says about the notion of the idée fixe, that it is too big and baggy, could be thrown back at his concept of “capture.” Could Kessler himself have been captured? Then again maybe you have to be to get anything worthwhile done.