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Ivan, A. (2009). Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind by Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer, Ph.D. New York: Bantam Dell, 2007, 302 pp.. Fort Da, 15(1):105-111.

(2009). Fort Da, 15(1):105-111

Book Reviews

Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind by Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer, Ph.D. New York: Bantam Dell, 2007, 302 pp.

Reviewed by
Anca Ivan, Psy.D.

I recently went to hear internationally acclaimed Japanese postmodern writer Haruki Murakami give a reading and talk about his life and work. He read The Rise and Fall of Sharpie Cakes, one of his early short stories, a parable about the reception of his first book by the old establishment of the Japanese literary world. In this story, in typical Murakami fashion, the ordinary unfurls into the surreal: a Japanese everyman goes to a seminar offered by the Sharpie Cake Company, which is seeking an updated version of their old product. The person who submits the best refurbished product is awarded a large cash prize. The young man enters the competition and submits his new cakes. Their reception is mixed — the young staff love them, but the older staff do not because they feel that the new cakes are not “true” Sharpies, they are too different from the old product. In order to settle this, they turn to the “Their Holiness the Sharpie Crows” — a set of grotesque and oversized crows that will only eat true Sharpies. When the young man's refurbished cakes are fed to the crows, some eat them with gusto, and some spit them out. Again, no decision can be made. Disappointed with the whole ordeal, the young man leaves and decides that, from then on, he will only bake cakes that he likes to eat.

What do Sharpie cakes have to do with late Elizabeth Mayer's last book, Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind? Mayer's book is about anomalous cognition: from telepathy, clairvoyance, and premonitions to distant healing and remote viewing. Its intended audience is not specifically the psychoanalytic crowd, but anybody interested in “anomalous” mental phenomena.

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