Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Benjamin Reiss

Benjamin Reiss's new book is Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you become interested in the topic of sleep, and why did you decide to write this book?

A: I’m attracted to curiosities, and there’s really nothing more curious than sleep. I’ve written previous books about freak shows and insane asylums, and in a certain light sleep is a universal experience freakishness and madness.

I was also interested in the challenge of writing history from the point of view of unconsciousness: what does the world look like when we adopt the point of view of the sleeper, or the nervous wreck who can’t sleep?

Q: You write that “whether or not our society is suffering a significant decline in the quantity of sleep, we seem to be experiencing an erosion in the quality of sleep.” Why is that?

A: It’s arguable whether our society sleeps less now than in previous eras. We have all sorts of advantages that were previously unavailable: fireproof homes, comfortable mattresses, pest control systems, police forces, alarm systems, and even modern dentistry. (Ever tried to sleep with a toothache?)

But it’s indisputable that we...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue