The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves


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What is the self? In a seamless synthesis of personal experience and extensive research, Hustvedt conveys the often frightening mysteries of illness and the complexities of diagnosis. As engaging as it is thought-provoking, The Shaking Woman brilliantly illuminates the age-old dilemma of the mental and the physical, and what it means to be human. The Summer Without Men.

Siri Hustvedt Interview: On Reading

Was ich liebte. My knees knocked. I shook as if I were having a seizure. Astounded by what was happening to me and terrified that I would fall over, I managed to keep my balance and continue, despite the fact that the cards in my hands were flying back and forth in front of me. When the speech ended, the shaking stopped. I looked down at my legs. They had turned a deep red with a bluish cast.

She consults neurologists and psychiatrists; she reads philosophy and the history of medicine; she seeks to understand the relationship between mind and body by looking for her unconscious and looking at fMRI images of her brain. In the process, she manages to write a page-turner fueled by philosophy, neurology, and history. If Hustvedt were writing in the nineteenth century, or if she were a devout Christian, she might see this will as either Divine or evil.

Is that all there is to the story? Here, Hustvedt puts her will and her unconscious in touch with each other.


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It feels to her as if keeping her cool may have a therapeutic effect, somehow shifting the neuronal and hormonal patterns that drive her body to convulse, her arms to flail, and her legs to turn a deep red. But it is one of the keys to the philosophical questions her book explores, questions about how the conscious and the unconscious impinge on each other and how a sense of self is produced in the process. I didn't require an MD.

I didn't write about it until now. I realized it was just stage-fright, which I hadn't had before or since. What set it off? I was uncertain of what I was saying. At end: audience members rushed to shower congrats.

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And I realized no there had a clue anyway as to the subject of the Talk. Got paid a wad. So fuk any medico bosherie about Nerves -- shaking, quacking or qwacking. Just have 2 vodka martinis and a good laugh. It's a burp, not a book. View all 17 comments.

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Jan 13, Laurel Amberdine rated it liked it. On reading the description, this sounds like the author is going to investigate her mysterious shaking disease, discover and share fascinating medical tidbits along the way, and presumably come up with a conclusion.


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In reality After her initial shaking fit, Hustvedt did some research on her own into psychological disorders. She was already working with psychiatric patients, and felt well equipped to do so.

The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves by Siri Hustvedt | Hachette UK

She diag On reading the description, this sounds like the author is going to investigate her mysterious shaking disease, discover and share fascinating medical tidbits along the way, and presumably come up with a conclusion. She diagnosed herself with hysteria, something which has gone almost entirely out of fashion in the medical community. After deciding that was what she had, she continued to research the disease and the various perceptions its gone through over the years.

The investigation is interesting: at what point is a symptom really real? If you can scan it on an MRI, is it real then? What if conscious thought affects it? How can an illness be all in a patient's mind, when all it has actual symptoms, and looks just like the "real thing"? Associated musings explore the idea of self, the relationship between body and mind, the meaning and purpose of dreams, and how perception affects reality.

Hustvedt's symptoms come and go, and she adapts her theory, up until an incident which thoroughly disproves her idea. This leads her finally go to a doctor. She winds up with an entirely unsurprising diagnosis, given her history and symptoms. So, while it's an interesting book, it's more geared toward fans of Siri Hustvdet, who want to know what she's like and why she writes the way she does. It honestly is an interesting book in that regard.

‘The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves’ by Siri Hustvedt

It's not much of a medical mystery, though. Dec 12, Alta added it. A very intelligent memoir of illness, in which the author uses deep knowledge from several disciplines--neuroscience, psychoanalysis, literature--and her own experience to discuss the relationship between mind and body. Hustvedt is the best proof that very cerebral people are often also very sensitive she suffers of numerous nervous afflictions , and that the "mind" and the "body" are inseparable. I'm glad I read this book; but I probably should have waited for a time when I would have been more focused on it than now!

She does research, and the book is the result of these researches about her personal case. She also wr I'm glad I read this book; but I probably should have waited for a time when I would have been more focused on it than now! She also writes about other cases, and other illnesses.

I had to reread certain passages to fully understand them reading in a train ugh but it didn't reduce the pleasure I had while reading. It made me think, shook my certainties, things I thought were immutable. It also made me discover certain things I didn't know at all about different subjects, mostly around mental health. I would have loved to write in my copy of the book, be it my personal remarks, or just to underline some sentences that were significant to me.

Unfortunately, this book was not mine. I'll wait and buy my own copy to write into it! I love Siri Hustvedt's writing and ideas; she is, for me, in Margaret Atwood's case.

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She might write about anything: the writing will be good, and I'll be interested in what is told. She is reaching my favorite authors list! Can't wait to read other books by this great author!! View 2 comments. Mar 11, Catherine rated it really liked it Shelves: mental-illness , mainstream-us , medicine , spirit , In , Siri Hustvedt stands to give a short speech at the planting of a tree in memory of her father. As she speaks, she begins to shake, her body from the neck down convulsing as though she is having a fit.

From the neck up she is calm, retains her faculty of speech, continues to talk as if her body is not answering some other call. In this book, she sets out to discover who the shaking woman is. The search passes through neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry, philosophy, theology, poetry, and In , Siri Hustvedt stands to give a short speech at the planting of a tree in memory of her father. The search passes through neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry, philosophy, theology, poetry, and story-telling of all kinds.

Hustvedt considers the impact of culture on the illnesses we can identity for ourselves and those we can't; the effect of words on our understanding of our lives, for good and ill; the boundless reach of what biology tells us about our bodies and the limitations of halting the search for meaning at the borders of a cell.

We are, Hustvedt concludes, beings who do not experience unusual events, feelings, and trauma as bundles of cells alone, nor are such events conditional experiences of the mind. We are story-tellers, each of us, and we name and describe our feelings, our bodies, our illnesses, our research, and in the amalgam of all of this is the self. The book has no chapters, and I regretted the lack of them - I wanted better organization, or at least more structure. And yet I'm sure the choice was a purposeful one.

As Hustvedt concludes, we are not beings who experience life in discrete boxes or chunks, but rather we messily move from intellect to emotion to belief to the sparking of a neuron in mere seconds, back and forth, over and over again. To divide this long meditation on who we are and how illness, mental and otherwise, figures into that is to impose an artificial structure on something that, by nature, is disorganized and chaotic. And that's one of the most interesting things of all, to see reflected in my own wish for chapters a sense of how I bring order to my world.

Fascinating book. Aug 14, Marcia rated it really liked it Shelves: medicine , read-from-the-library , read-in , memoir , nonfiction. This was an interesting and thoughtful book, if not exactly what I expected. The title lead me to believe that it would be more of a personal memoir of illness, while, although Hustvedt talks about her life and her shaking incidents somewhat, it focuses more on the history of "hysteria" and the biological vs.

If you are interested in learning about neurology, the history of psychology, and philosophical discussions on the soul, then you will enjoy this boo This was an interesting and thoughtful book, if not exactly what I expected. If you are interested in learning about neurology, the history of psychology, and philosophical discussions on the soul, then you will enjoy this book, as I did. At times it could be quite dry and esoteric, but it left me with a lot to think about, and even though I would've enjoyed a more personal narrative, the questions raised by this little tome have stuck with me for the last week and I keep finding myself coming back to them again and again.

It's the kind of book I wish I owned, instead of borrowed from the library, so I could highlight and take notes and come back to it again and again. Ah, well, maybe when it comes out in paperback. Recommended for intellectual searchers and anyone who has an illness that may, or may not be, "psychosomatic" Jul 23, Frank Jude rated it it was amazing Shelves: philosophy , memoirs , science-consciousness , psychology. Siri Hustvedt is one of my favorite authors -- living or dead -- and it just seems she's incapable of writing anything uninteresting! This "memoir" touches on philosophy, psychology and consciousness studies through her own experience of an inexplicable experience of uncontrolled shaking that first came upon her while speaking at a memorial for her father.

Throughout, Hustvedt explores the meaning of her experience with the aesthetics of the poet and the curious skepticism of the scientist. If o Siri Hustvedt is one of my favorite authors -- living or dead -- and it just seems she's incapable of writing anything uninteresting! If one were to read the books alluded to or quoted in the footnotes, you would be exposed to a breath of speculation ranging from The Salem Witch Trials Reader to Lacan; from Dostoyevsky to Hans Christian Anderson; from Husserl to Damasio and much more.

Some of the questions she dives into -- with the courage of not settling for answers -- include: "Is there a difference between brain and mind, and if so, what is it? Went to a talk at Foyles by Siri Hustvedt about this book and the reason she wrote it. I found listening to her a very interesting experience. She's extremely articulate, intelligent and both engaged and engaging. The subject of neuropsychology might otherwise be quite dry and although I have a passing interest in psychology and to a much lesser extent neurology I would never pick up a book about neuropsychology otherwise but through her writing style and the personal connection it has to her Went to a talk at Foyles by Siri Hustvedt about this book and the reason she wrote it.

The subject of neuropsychology might otherwise be quite dry and although I have a passing interest in psychology and to a much lesser extent neurology I would never pick up a book about neuropsychology otherwise but through her writing style and the personal connection it has to her Siri Hustvedt manages to make it interesting. The style is a mix between an autobiography and a social sciences paper. It's an exploration of the self through psychology, neurology and through the actual writing. A very interesting book which gives an enormous amount of food for thought.

I only regret not reading it with a highlighter. Jul 13, Kristin rated it really liked it. I am a fan of Siri Hustvedt's fiction. This book is a sort of memoir and a sort of science book, an exploration of why she started suffering from a convulsion-type phenomenon. Very interesting, especially if you're interested in how the brain works. Feb 09, Lisanne rated it really liked it.

This was a very interesting read and Hustvedt has a way of making neuroscience and psychiatry understandable for someone who knows not a lot of things about these topics. I really enjoyed how she wrote about Freud as a scientist and was constantly debunking the myth of the sex-and-mother-obsessed couch psychoanalyst everyone has. This book was recommended to me and I am very very grateful for that.

The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves
The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves
The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves
The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves
The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves
The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves
The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves

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