Man walks into a column, no.2: Who?

This is a post by Phil

I am being followed by a Nobel Prize winning author.

I’m conscious that it might seem a bit indulgent to post twice about the same book within the space of a week, on two different blogs, but these are special circumstances. 

The first was a short note of my entirely subjective, personal response to a novel called The Black Book, by the laureate-follower in question: Orhan Pamuk. As you can see for yourself if you read the post – there’s no particular reason you should – I thought The Black Book was a beautifully written exploration of big ideas, if not exactly what you’d call a rip-roaring read.

The biggest of the big ideas is that, by knowing the work of a writer inside out – the stories told, the ideas held, the principles promulgated – your identity can dissolve into theirs. I won’t go into detail about the extent of the dissolution in The Black Book for fear of spoiling the read for those who may choose to take it on, but suffice to say that if nothing else the novel succeeds in calling into question the fundamental idea of authorship. 

It was thus with some delight that I discovered my newest Twitter follower was, apparently, Orhan Pamuk himself. Either this really was he, in which case: bollocks, I wish I’d taken more time over the review, or it was someone pretending to be Orhan Pamuk, which opens up the possibility that whoever is actually tweeting has been so heavily influenced by The Black Book that she or he is attempting to become Turkey’s best-selling novelist. Either that or they’re just having a bit of fun; if so, it’s a great joke. (As an aside: this is a brilliant example of fans – West Wing fans in this case – being willing to adopt alternative Twitter identities for fun.)

If you’re on Twitter yourself chances are you’ll be familiar with the minimal room for establishing ‘true identity’ that the medium affords. Is there even any point in a personal profile of 140 characters? Isn’t it a strange experience when you meet someone in the flesh who you’ve previously known, sometimes for what seems like a long time, only as a 1cm squared avatar and truncated textual meanderings? So how on earth am I going to establish whether ‘my’ Orhan Pamuk is the real deal when almost all of his tweets are in Turkish? And even then? (Judge for yourself: @BenOrhanPamuk)

Which brings me, in closing, to the topic of mindfulness, which as you may’ve seen was covered in last weekend’s papers after the National Institute for Clinical Excellence’s decision to recommend mindfulness meditation as a legit treatment for chronic depression. I posted about mindfulness quite some time ago, and freely admit to having become quite a convert.

A particularly mind-boggling (ho ho) foundation of mindfulness is the notion, supported by a burgeoning scientific evidence base, that the brain is plastic, with parts of it changing shape and size in response to our patterns of thought. How weird is that, seriously? (If you’re interested in reading more about the concept of neuroplasticity then there’s an in-depth interview with a psychologist who’s a leading expert on the subject available here.) Suddenly the idea of actually becoming a different person – switching identities – doesn’t seem that far-fetched.

As Mr Pamuk might say: until next week, dear readers. You’ll find me, or someone pretending to be me, on Twitter @philblogs. 

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