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nonsuch

The Kingdom of Infinite Space

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Tallis is a poet, a novelist and a philosopher, as well as having been Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester until 2006. A Jack-of-all-trades in other words, and, on this evidence, master of many. The sub-title of this intelligent and funny book is 'The Kingdom of Infinite Space' and, indeed, Hamlet is never far away from Tallis's exegesis on the head and all that it contains, beginning with such mundane subjects as mucus and earwax, passing on to tears that both blind and disinfect, and ending with an exploration of the nature of thinking, man's defining characteristic.

 

The charm of Tallis's penetrating excursion into the head lies in its lightness of touch. The reader is never weighed down by the learning but charmed by humour and enriching metaphor. Open the book at any page and you are captivated, led by the hand into Keatsian realms of gold. Consider this bejewelled sentence, worthy of Eliot at his best: 'I am an evanescent lacework of lived time enclosed in a many-layered crust of curriculum vitae.' Tallis then goes on to explain:

 

'I would like to say that I wobble between a life passively experienced and a life actively led but that would simplify matters to such a degree as to undermine the point of this chapter [Head and World]. Better to say that the two modes of living are inseparable - like those rainbows pitched on the cataclysm of a sunlit waterfall, their miraculous stillness staining the mad mist thrown off permanently hurrying water.'

 

In short, this book is a marvellous treasury of insight into the way that human beings engage with and remake the world, with all their conscious and unconscious coping strategies. It abounds with insight and wit and everybody should read it at least once in their short and wonderful life.

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