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Cass, Dennis 1968(?)-

Cass, Dennis 1968(?)-

PERSONAL:

Born c. 1968; married; children: a son.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Minneapolis, MN. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, journalist, educator, and public speaker.

WRITINGS:

(Compiler, with Perry M. Smith) Cass Chronicles 2000: An Updating of "The Chronicles of the Descendants of John Cass," edited by Perry M. Smith, D. Cass, 2000.

Head Case: How I Almost Lost My Mind Trying to Understand My Brain, HarperCollins Publishers (New York, NY), 2007.

Author of the blog Dennis Cass Is …; former columnist for GQ and the online journal Slate. Contributor to periodicals, including the Harper's, Restaurant Business, and the New York Times magazine.

SIDELIGHTS:

Dennis Cass is a journalist and writer who, according to Houston Chronicle contributor Jon Tevlin, "is … an acute observer of pop culture and Americana." In Head Case: How I Almost Lost My Mind Trying to Understand My Brain, Cass presents his own investigation into the human brain based on a wide range of interviews with everyone from doctors and researchers to a transcendental-meditation expert. In addition, the author draws from a log he kept of his own brain as it reacted to everything from composers and comedians to writers whose success made Cass jealous. Although he did not initially intend to include more personal stories, the author provides insights about his drug-addicted stepfather, his mother, and his relationship with his own son.

"Head Case is actually several different books in one: Cass does subject himself to a battery of neurological tests, even self-medicating with Adderall, and he attends several neuroscientific conferences and has read a lot in the journals, and so to that extent it is a work of science reporting," noted Jason P. Jones in an interview article on the PopMatters Web site. "But thinking about minds and brains leads him, inevitably, into thoughts of his stepfather's brain, tormented by addiction and manic depression, and of his first child's rapidly forming brain."

The author got the idea for his book while suffering from writer's block, leading him to wonder how the brain works. In addition to offering up his own brain for research with electric shock, attention experiments, stress tests, and even smoking, the author explores everything from how social stress affects tree shrews to going to the Minnesota State Fair as neuroscientists from the University of Minnesota gave away pencils with brain-shaped erasers. In his scientific examination of the brain, the author writes about topics such as brain cracks and fissures, neurotransmitters, the hippocampus and dopamine receptors, and the fight-or-flight mechanism that results from a battle between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex.

The story of Cass's stepfather focuses on trying to understand how this smart man turned to drugs after failing financially, and how he influenced Cass in many negative ways. The author told Tevlin in the Houston Chronicle interview: "That whole story of my stepfather was not one I wanted to tell…. I had a miserable childhood, but was it memoir-miserable? Because the bar is so high for those, people feel obligated to embellish, and I wouldn't do that." In a review of Head Case, a Kirkus Reviews contributor commented on "the intelligence and easy wit of Cass's prose."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Houston Chronicle, May 27, 2007, Jon Tevlin, "Brain Power; 3 Pounds of Gray Matter Gets Heavy; Author Tries to Understand the Mind—without Losing His Own," p. 9.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2006, review of Head Case: How I Almost Lost My Mind Trying to Understand My Brain, p. 1204.

Publishers Weekly, November 6, 2006, review of Head Case, p. 43.

ONLINE

Blogger.com,http://www.blogger.com/ (November 20, 2007), profile of author.

PopMatters,http://www.popmatters.com/ (May 19, 2007), Jason B. Jones, "Dennis Cass discusses Head Case."

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