Apr 15

“Remember”: L. Genova Eases Minds About Forgetting

Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting is new nonfiction by neuroscientist Lisa Genova. Genova is also the author of several novels, including Still Alice, about a 50-year-old professor who’s diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It later became a movie starring Julianne Moore.

Although aspects of Alzheimer’s are addressed in Genova’s new book, Remember is more about the kind of memory issues everyone faces at times. As her publisher’s blurb reminds us, “Just because your memory sometimes fails doesn’t mean it’s broken or succumbing to disease. Forgetting is actually part of being human.”

The three-part structure of Remember includes How We Remember, What We Forget, and Improve or Impair. In brief:

  1. Remembering has a great deal to do with the amount of attention we give something. (Interested? Or not?)
  2. We forget a lot of things, and that’s okay. (Multitasking impairs memory.)
  3. There are things we can do to remember better. (Sadly, solving crossword puzzles is not one of them.)

In addition, from the Publishers Weekly review:

She explains the different kinds of memory (such as working memory and muscle memory) and the pitfalls inherent in each (such as how relying on working memory can lead to forgetfulness, and muscle memory can sustain bad habits), before exploring the functions of forgetting and the distinction between normal memory failures and something more serious. Genova blends popular science and self-help, providing lay reader-friendly descriptions of the function of memory and sharing tips for better memory in a helpful appendix.

And from Kirkus Reviews:

In conversational language, Genova details how the brain processes events and how we have the power to help select what transfers from fleeting knowledge to long-term memory. For example, while it is common to forget the name of a person you briefly met, you can also train yourself to improve attention to such details and improve recall. ‘Memory is the sum of what we remember and what we forget,’ writes the author, ‘and there is an art and science to both.’

So, how do we actually train ourselves regarding recall? One Goodreads reviewer says she learned the following:

…I need to pay attention to details I want to remember, decrease distractions, rehearse facts, self-test (quiz myself on what I know), attach meaning to moments, use visual and spatial memory, use lists, and keep a diary. I loved the idea to replicate context during memory retrieval, too. So if I study for a botany test while drinking a Mocha Frappuccino, I’ll try to drink the same thing while I’m taking the test so that I can recall information better.

What about reducing your risk of ever getting Alzheimer’s? Suggestions include a Mediterranean diet, sufficient vitamin D, avoidance of alcohol (including red wine), physical exercise, getting adequate sleep, preventing and/or dealing with cardiovascular issues, managing stress, doing meditation, and learning new things.

Jan 16

“Still Alice”: Julianne Moore with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s

Alice is too young to assume that a momentary lapse might be an early sign of dementia. And then, over the length of a single devastating close-up, Alice learns that the rest of her life will be devoted to what she later refers to as ‘the art of losing.” David Ehrlich, Time Out, about Still Alice

Last Sunday Julianne Moore won a Golden Globe for her lead performance in Still Alice, the new film based on neuroscientist Lisa Genova‘s 2009 novel about a 50-year-old married professor who finds out she has early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

Co-written and co-directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, Still Alice opens nationwide today.

The trailer below opens with Alice having confusing memory lapses; she later starts to come to terms with what’s actually happening to her and her family, which includes her husband (Alec Baldwin) and three adult kids (Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish).

ALICE

Christy Lemire, rogerebert.com: “’Still Alice’ is about how she reacts to her own deterioration–how she constantly reassesses it and figures out how to cope. She doesn’t always do it with quiet dignity, which is refreshing; sometimes she even uses the disease to manipulate those around her or get out of a social occasion she’d rather avoid.”

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: “Moore is especially good at the wordless elements of this transformation, allowing us to see through the changing contours of her face what it is like when your mind empties out. When Alice says at one point ‘I feel like I can’t find myself,’ it is all the more upsetting because we’ve already watched it happen.”

THE DIAGNOSIS AND PROGRESSION OF THE DISEASE

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “Determined to continue her research and lifestyle uninterrupted, with the full support of her husband (Alec Baldwin, in one of his more sensitive and totally natural performances) and family, Alice eschews the terror of what lies ahead and embraces logic and common sense.”

Peter Debruge, Variety: “It’s not until Alice learns that the disease is hereditary that the severity of her situation sets in: As if it weren’t bad enough that she will eventually cease to recognize her own children, Alice may also be responsible for passing the condition along to them.”

A.O. Scott, New York Times: “With what seems like shocking rapidity — the film’s chronology is appropriately fuzzy — Alice slides from a witty, intelligent, capable adult into a fragile and confused shadow of her former self.”

ALICE’S FAMILY

David Ehrlich, Time Out: “Perhaps owing to the fact that Glatzer and Westmoreland know a thing or two about living with a debilitating disease (the former has ALS), the movie always evinces an acute understanding of how pity can be the most painful thing to feel for someone you love.”

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times:”…(I)f it wasn’t for costar Kristen Stewart, who plays Alice’s daughter Lydia, ‘Still Alice’ wouldn’t be nearly as emotionally effective as it is. Moore and Stewart have been off-screen friends for more than a decade, and that bond only enhances the work they do here.”

OVERALL REVIEWS

Dana Stevens, Slate: “Glatzer and Westmoreland don’t need to stack the emotional deck on Alice’s behalf…They just leave the camera on Moore’s beautiful but increasingly faraway face, and our tears come on their own.”

A.O. Scott, New York Times: “The story is sad and sincerely told, but it is too removed from life to carry the full measure of pain that Alice deserves.”

Christy Lemirerogerebert.com: “Co-directors and writers Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland don’t shy away from the steady and terrifying way the disease can take hold of a person and strip away her ability to communicate and connect with the outside world. But they also don’t tell this story with much nuance or artistry in adapting Lisa Genova’s novel.”