cover image On the Sea of Memory: A Journey from Forgetting to Remembering

On the Sea of Memory: A Journey from Forgetting to Remembering

Jonathan Cott, . . Random, $24.95 (214pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-6058-0

Cott, a Rolling Stone writer, lost the memory of 15 years of his life (from 1985 to 2000) after receiving electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for severe depression. Forced to rely on the testimony of friends and his own previous writings to build partial accounts of his missing past, Cott offers an autobiographical meditation that is part lament for his loss of identity, part investigation into the ECT debate and part neuroscience journalism. Cott reflects engagingly on our culture's more recent cinematic and literary representations of memory loss and on memory's centrality to the formation of selfhood. In a series of chapters, Cott (The Search for Omm Sety , etc.) quizzes neurobiological experts on the nature of the brain, ECT and memory loss, the devastating effects of Alzheimer's, memory enhancement, false memory syndrome and recent neuroscientific discoveries concerning memory and the brain. Cott also includes dialogues with thinkers versed in Judaism, Sufism and Buddhism, and a specialist on African storytelling, as he learns how each of those traditions approaches the spiritual significance of memory. Impeccably written, informative and well researched, Cott's highly personal account communicates current concepts in neurobiology and ruminates on the philosophical and psychological dimensions of memory loss. Agent, Sarah Lazin. (On sale Oct. 4)