Over the winter school break, I also read a book about a Russian memory expert, "S."
The Mind of a Mnemonist
By: A.R. Luria
It was a translation of a book from a Russian psychologist who studied this mnemonist who made a living performing feats of memory. He would get paid to put on shows where people just read off a list of words or nonsense syllables, and S. would repeat them back. Or study a chart of numbers. Or recall lines from Dante's Inferno in Italian, a language he did not know, after hearing them recited once.
S.'s method (he has a real name that I forget -- it's in a Psychology textbook somewhere) was synethestic in nature -- he would form a little short story out of images that he saw from each word or number. Anything he heard, he could either taste or see. Voices were metallic. Pitches were lengths of silver, or white, or orange.
It's a fascinating take. Just imagine processing the world this way -- as a kid, S. could imagine that he actually went to school, and think that he did, when he was still in bed. He just pictured it. He could raise or lower his body temperature by envisioning himself out in the cold or in extreme heat. He could raise and lower his heartbeat too.
There were sad parts -- he had trouble getting the general meaning of things. And he always felt like something great was going to happen to him, or he would do something great. He seemed to live in a haze most of his life.
Very interesting read.