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Head Case: My Brain and Other Wonders by…

Head Case: My Brain and Other Wonders (2015)

by Cole Cohen

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This is a tough book to review. On the one hand, it's a fascinating memoir of someone with a very unique neurological condition (having a large hole in the parietal lobe of the brain), yet I found the author a bit disconnected, in a way. She was difficult to engage with, in that I felt as though I was witnessing an awkward movie with jumps in time and place as opposed to a story with a cohesive whole. Nevertheless, it was interesting work of nonfiction, and as Cohen herself says, "Everyone has a labyrinthine brain with a Minotaur at the center: a memory, an illness, a heartache, a deep frustration." Perhaps this serves as the basis of a reader-author connection. ( )
  Stardust_Fiddle | Apr 6, 2017 |
A fascinating memoir by a girl, whose brain isn't all there. Thought to have a myriad of disorders (ADD, anxiety, etc), it isn't until Cole is in her twenties that she gets tested and is told she is seriously neurologically impaired and has a hole in her brain the size of a lemon). Because of this Cole can't tell the difference between left and right, can't drive, can't follow directions, tell home much time has paced, and dozens of other things that make living independently very very hard. This memoir talks about the struggle of coming to terms with her diagnosis and trying to find new ways to complete some of the most basic of tasks with dignity and resolve. Inspiring and intriguing. This was a fascinating read. ( )
  ecataldi | Oct 10, 2015 |
Have you ever had an internal monologue that meanders around for hours before eventually returning to where it started? Like, you're sitting around thinking about how much your broken ankle hurts, which reminds you that you have an appointment to see your orthopedist tomorrow and you really can't forget, because that one time you forgot your dentist appointment your tooth got infected, and then you had to take that weird pill that tasted like skittles, and remember that time you and your sister ate so many skittles that your tongues started to hurt, oh yeah, and speaking of hurting, damn, that ankle.

That's like this book. The meandering is all over the place, and not in a good way like Sarah Vowell manages to pull off. You'll be reading a chapter and all of a sudden you're finding out about how the author imagines a street in Portland to be named, and maybe it has something to do with prohibition, and blah blah blah, and oh yeah, she has a hole in her brain.

Honestly, her story is interesting, and the author seems to have lived a unique life in her 35 years. But there really wasn't a heck of a lot of compelling stuff in this book. The most captivating content is packed within the first 20 pages or so, and the rest is just anticlimax. Long, meandering, confusing, anticlimax. ( )
1 vote lemontwist | Aug 28, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I love memoirs and working in health care, I am always interested in medical stories so this was a good read for me. The author was diagnosed as an adult as having a lemon sized hole in her brain. After a lifetime of what were perceived as learning disabilities and various other odd symptoms this news was somewhat of a relief - finally an explanation. The difficult part however, was the complete knowledge that nothing can be done to help. It was fascinating reading to understand the many physical,mental, and emotional limitations this put on the author. It was difficult for her to get through the day everyday and maintain relationships. Overall I thought this was a good read. The latter part of the book was not quite as engaging for me, but this is still a quick and thought provoking read about the wonders of the brain and body's ability to compensate. ( )
  tara35 | May 24, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Case Cohen was born with a hole the size of a lemon in her brain. More amazingly no one knew it for most of her life. Sure they knew something was wrong. An otherwise bright girl shouldn't get lost in a grocery store and should be able to tie her shoes. Through batteries of tests and misdiagnosis no one ever thought to get an MRI of her brain.

The story more or less starts with the correct diagnosis (not that there is a treatment) and focuses on her attempt to navigate the world where she literally can't tell left from right. It's fascinating.

BUT... the whole story isn't told. Brief throw away sentences allude to suicide attempts and time spent in psych wards. I felt she just wasn't able to be completely candid about the real impact of her diability. ( )
  woodsathome | May 23, 2015 |
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A labyrinth is an ancient device that compresses a journey into a small space, winds a path like a thread on a spool. It contains beginning, confusion, perseverance, arrival, and return. There at last the metaphysical journey of your life and your actual movements are one and the same. You may wander, you may learn that in order to get to your destination you must turn away from it, become lost, spin about, and then only after the way has become overwhelming and absorbing, arrive, having gone the great journey without having gone far from the ground.
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Inside my stomach it feels bright and cold like those old cartoons where the crow swallows a mercury thermometer and reels around the room clutching his gut, hiccupping in percussive squeals.
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"A spirited, wry, and utterly original memoir about one woman's struggle to make her way and set up a life after doctors discover a hole the size of a plum in her brain. The summer before she was set to head out-of-state to pursue her MFA, twenty-seven-year-old Cole Cohen submitted herself to a battery of tests. For as long as she could remember, she'd struggled with a series of learning disabilities that made it nearly impossible to judge time and space--standing at a cross walk, she couldn't tell you if an oncoming car would arrive in ten seconds or thirty; if you asked her to let you know when ten minutes had passed, she might notify you in a minute or an hour. These symptoms had always kept her from getting a driver's license, which she wanted to have for grad school. Instead of leaving the doctor's office with permission to drive, she left with a shocking diagnosis--doctors had found a large hole in her brain responsible for her life-long struggles. Because there aren't established tools to rely on in the wake of this unprecedented and mysterious diagnosis, Cole and her doctors and family create them, and discover firsthand how best to navigate the unique world that Cole lives in. Told without an ounce of self-pity and plenty of charm and wit, Head Case is ultimately a story of triumph, as we watch this passionate, loveable, and unsinkable young woman chart a path for herself"--… (more)

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