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Friday, June 17, 2011

Synesthesia

I had a great reading last night thanks to the kind ladies at FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock. I hope to have some video highlights up by this weekend. Meanwhile, I'm resorting to reposting a golden oldie from this blog on the subject of synesthesia.

I've always wanted the gift of synethesia. To some, of course, it's not a gift but a curse, if not an actual illness, a perceptual malfunction like revervse color blindness. Synesthesia is perceiving sensory data relevant to one sense in terms of another. Percieving a sound as a color, for example. The most famous synesthete is probably Nabokov, who as a child had a set of alphabet blocks - you know the sort of thing, colored cubes with a different letter on each side. Anyway, Nabokov told his mother that the "E" was the wrong color. I don't know what color the E was, or what color young Vladimir thought it should be, but he had a distinct sense that the sound E was associated with a particular color, and making it orange, for example, was as incorrect as a blue apple.
In any case, it probably wasn't E in the first place, because it would have been something in the Cyrillic alphabet, so it was probably something like one of those candlelabra-looking things or a backwards F or something.
His mother had the good sense to agree with him, that yes, the E was the wrong color, and later Vladimir grew up to record such magnificent synesthesias as, "The car door slammed and left a square echo."
How I wish I could do that! To feel one sense so strongly, that it spilled over into another, so that a sound was also a shape! And to do it so aptly, for who can deny that a car door makes a square sound?
This morning my dog woke up from a dream. It was about 4:30; the lights were off, and I was half asleep myself, perhaps just coming out of a dream of my own. Zoe let out a long, slow groan, and I perceived in the darkness that the sound was shaped like a French loaf: elongated and slim, tapered slightly at either end.
How nice that was. Little enough, but a synesthesia of my own, and there you have it. Or, as Nabokov would say, there you have it.

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