Thumbs up for Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer. Science.
Yet another book in the guy-does-weird-stuff-in-order-to-write-about-it genre? I had low expectations. And yet: I really enjoyed this book, and furthermore, I feel like I got quite a bit out of it. Originally setting out to do nothing more than write a short magazine piece on the 2005 USA Memory Championships, Foer gets sucked into training for, and competing, in the next year’s event. Along the way we are treated to the history of memory (yes, for real), learn along with him the best ways to train your memory, and get to know the interesting characters who call themselves Mental Atheletes (MAs), who can memorize the order of a deck of cards in two minutes and a thousand random digits in an hour. And at the end of it all we’re not only entertained, but convinced of what the MAs tell Foer at the start: that Anyone can do what they do. And Foer, with their training, is living proof of that. Highly recommended if you’ve ever wished your memory was a bit better.
From the front of the room, the chief arbiter, a former marine drill sergeant, shouted, “Go!” My judge clicked her stopwatch, and I began peeling through the pack as fast as I could, flicking three cards at a time off the top of the deck and into my right hand. I was storing the images in the memory palace I knew better than any other, the house in Washington, D.C., that I’d lived in since I was four years old – the same house I’d used to remember Ed’s to-do list on the rock in Central Park. At the front door, I saw my friend Liz vivisecting a pig (two of hearts, two of diamonds, three of hearts). Just inside, the Incredible Hulk rode a stationary bike while a pair of oversize, loopy earrings weighed down his earlobes (three of clubs, seven of diamonds, jack of spades). Next to the mirror at the bottom of the stairs, Terry Bradshaw balanced on a wheelchair (seven of hearts, nine of diamonds, eight of hearts), and just behind him, a midget jockey in a sombrero parachuted from an airplane with an umbrella (seven of spades, eight of diamonds, four of clubs). Halfway through the deck, Maurice’s Teutonic wail once again penetrated my earmuffs: “No walking!” I heard him yell, presumably at another photographer. This time, I didn’t let it break my focus. In my brother’s bedroom, I saw my friend Ben urinating on Benedict XVI’s papal skullcap (ten of diamonds, two of clubs, six of diamonds), Jerry Seinfeld sprawled out bleeding on the hood of a Lamborghini in the hallway (five of hearts, ace of diamonds, jack of hearts), and at the foot of my parents’ bedroom door, myself moonwalking with Einstein (four of spades, king of hearts, three of diamonds).
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