Gut feelings and quiz trivia


Gut feelings and quiz trivia

KERNEELS BREYTENBACH dips into must-read books that are hot off the press.


IN English, we speak of a gut feeling — that intuitive reaction you sometimes get about people, incidents or places. You meet a stranger and you immediately know you're going to like him/her — or the opposite. You walk into a room, and suddenly you have a sensation that you've been here before. Or you step off a plane at a completely unfamiliar airport and you immediately feel at home.

Where do these gut feelings come from?

Strange vibrations

Dr Garret Yount tries to provide explanations for the wide variety of gut feelings in Why Vibes Matter. For me, vibes were those profound things Sgt Oddball talked about in the movie Kelly's Heroes. I remain quite sceptical about much of the mumbo-jumbo that accompanies spiritualist explanations for gut feelings. Yount is an American scientist specialising in a very specific branch of neurobiology, namely the genetic basis of our thinking. He draws his explanations from a statement by Max Planck that all physical matter is composed of vibrations. Yount explains that this is not a unique view (the ancient Chinese referred to it), but what is fresh is his insistence that we can use our vibrations to find healing.

He explains that our gut feelings about people we meet for the first time often arise from our reactions to stimuli such as smell and the action of pheromones. One of the most interesting things he mentions is that women's tears contain a pheromone that repels men sexually. However, there is also substantial research on conditioning and things we have learned since childhood. For example, it is possible that the way a stranger talks or dresses contradicts something ingrained in you from childhood, and without you knowing why, the gut feeling arises.

Yount also reveals why there is truth in the expression “we are on the same wavelength." Researchers have found that when people sit and listen to someone telling a story, the listener's brain waves come to reflect those of the storyteller. A rather surprising view of tantric sex also emerges from this research.

The section about communication between, for example, parents who feel that a child is in trouble or in danger, and the child itself, seems a bit strange to my innate scepticism towards mumbo-jumbo. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique, or “tapping") is the kind of activity that, to me, feels like a form of quackery — a holistic pseudo-culture for people who don't mind tapping on various pressure points on their bodies while failing to engage in genuine self-reflection.

However, these are minor criticisms of a book I found quite reassuring, and which taught me to make peace with the machinery that drives my gut feelings.

Why Vibes Matter by Dr Garret Yount was published by Welbeck  and costs R304 at Exclusive Books.

Hand of genius

Joyce Carol Oates writes her books by hand. You can see it in her prose. Her style is concise, and her storytelling focused; surely the result of the kind of habits you develop when writing by hand. 48 Clues Into the Disappearance of My Sister was pure pleasure to read. It revolves around two sisters. One has been missing for many years and the other is trying to follow the clues.

I dare not reveal more but let me just say that I am now Oates's greatest admirer.

48 Clues Into the Disappearance of My Sister by Joyce Carol Oates was published by Head of Zeus and costs R547 at Exclusive Books.

Breakthrough at last

Ruth Ware is one of the new generation of thriller writers who is constantly on the verge of writing her breakthrough novel. I thought The Woman in Cabin 10 would bring that breakthrough, then The Death of Mrs Westaway and One by One, but here she is again on the threshold. This time it's about a computer whiz and his wife. The man's throat is cut and his wife begins an investigation that unfolds in a particularly thrilling manner, surprising you more often than is good for the nerves. This time, I suspect the movie adaptation is just around the corner and Zero Days will be her breakthrough novel.

Zero Days by Ruth Ware was published by Simon & Schuster and costs R423 at Exclusive Books.

Going to the ball

Do you think you know the story of Cinderella and the glass slipper? Really? Destiny Soria, better known as a writer of young adult novels, is now using her initials, and has made a true leap. To reimagine Cinderella's story as a conspiracy plot with political implications is quite an endeavour. Soria turns Cinderella's tale into a story intertwined with numerous conspiracies. There are plenty of surprises — so many that I'm relieved my children are grown and I won't be tempted to read this version at bedtime. It would take months!

Thief Liar Lady by DL Soria was published by Del Rey and costs $25.20 at Amazon.

Quiz bible

In the village where I live, people flock to the quiz night every other Thursday night. I always immerse myself in the first issue of this book and have had great success at said quiz night. It's my way of warding off the blues. Recently, the latest edition of The Book of Lists has appeared,  compiling the best lists from previous editions. I can recommend it for the purposes I've mentioned. 

The New Book of Lists by David Wallechinsky and Amy Wallace was pubished by Canongate and costs $18 at Amazon.

♦ VWB ♦

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