Profile Books and Wellcome Collection have acquired an "extraordinary" memoir by Pat Long which draws on neuroscience and philosophy of the self.
Kirty Topiwala, publisher at Wellcome Collection, pre-empted world rights to Long’s Among a World of Ghosts which details his experience of a brain tumour and his subsequent exploration into the science of memory and consciousness, from Chris Wellbelove at Aitken Alexander.
After several years of unexplained nightmares and hallucinations, 2012 marked the beginning of Long’s life as a cancer patient. A lemon-sized tumour was found in the right side of his brain, likely to have been growing slowly for more than a decade, breaking synaptic connections as it went. Two major surgeries later and the tumour is under control, but it has taken its toll on Long's life. Part of the tumour is still there and the surgeries have left him with epilepsy, causing occasional seizures that manifest themselves in a number of ways – from intense déjà vu, to blackouts and hallucinations. But what haunts Long now is an inability to trust in his own brain, and the destabilising idea that his identity has been irreversibly changed.
While the book is rooted in Long’s experience it is "much more than a memoir", said the publishers. The book will include interviews with leading neurologists and scientists whose research is providing new insights into the science of memory and consciousness. Long’s case is extreme, but in seeking to explain the science underpinning those events he will help us all gain a clearer understanding of what is happening in our own brains. "This moving, illuminating and cerebral book will show that so much of knowing who we are relies on a confidence in our physiology", said the publishers.
Long is head of news development for The Times and The Sunday Times, following more than a decade as a music journalist. He has written about his illness for The Times and The Sunday Times, and this project grew out of a piece he wrote for Mosaic on déjà vu.
Among a World of Ghosts will be published in hardback in 2019.
Topiwala said: "I'm so delighted to be publishing this book – a compelling quest to come to terms with the complexities of memory, dreams, déjà vu and the mind. Pat's story is remarkable, his approach refreshing, his writing crisp and utterly lacking in self-pity."
Long added: "The Wellcome collection, books and library have been a real source of inspiration to me for many years, so I'm beyond excited to be working on this project with Kirty and her team, as well as being honoured to be offered the chance to join a list of authors whom I admire and respect so greatly."