I was kind of surprised at the reactions to the narrator, whose tone seemed typical for this type of book, i.e., matter of fact. He reads as though he understands what he's saying-- which is the major requirement-- and I don't think a tone of great excitement would be appropriate for the material. (Compare the narrator of "The World is Flat," who maintains a uniformly breathless tone throughout that I found highly distracting.) He does, however, sound sarcastic during his reading of the "scripts" provided by authors when it is clearly not what the authors intended. (On the other hand, when the scripts in fact do call for a sarcastic tone, he's superb.) On the whole, I rarely found myself distracted by the narrator, and, especially since this book is a quite good example of its type, I would not avoid it just based on the reviews of the narrator.
This is a very readable book for the popular audience on the fascinating subject of brain plasticity. It reminds me of John McPhee's writing: skillful prose with, especially in the first half or so of the book, a mixture of engrossing (true) stories with technical discussion. It is hard to believe that Dr. Doidge is a psychiatrist, and a Freudian to boot (though to be fair, Freud posited a physiological basis to his theories) because the writing is so free of jargon and so lucid. The chapter on pornography and various forms of sexual deviancy is pretty grim and you might not want to listen to it with the kids in the car, but the revelations in this book are simply astounding.
I recognize that Feynman was a great physicist, etc., but I just do not see what is so compelling about his non-scientific books, at least this one. Feynman adopts a studiedly colloquial, urban blue collar style-- exacerbated by the reader's sounding like a cross between a borscht belt comedian and Archie Bunker-- and just goes on and on. Feynman portrays himself as the eternal adolescent, specifically the class clown, and he becomes tedious in the same way that Tom Sawyer does when he, no longer so charming, intrudes himself into the adult novel "Huckleberry Finn," relentlessly juvenile and self-indulgent. Feynman's anecdotes are wordy, repetitious and frequently quite pointless. Contrary to many, I found none of his stuff to be sidesplitting, and rarely provoking of even a smile. And the book just keeps getting more and more annoying, at least through the 4 or so cds that I listened to before-- for the first time in my Audible.com experience-- quitting to go on to another book. Finally, Feynman's usually self-deprecating tone seems to me to often mask a streak of amoral cruelty. The guy clearly cares more about his pranks than about people.
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