In his most extraordinary book, "one of the great clinical writers of the 20th century" (The New York Times) recounts the case histories of patients lost in the bizarre, apparently inescapable world of neurological disorders. Oliver Sacks's The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat tells the stories of individuals afflicted with fantastic perceptual and intellectual aberrations: patients who have lost their memories and with them the greater part of their pasts; who are no longer able to recognize people and common objects; who are stricken with violent tics and grimaces or who shout involuntary obscenities; whose limbs have become alien; who have been dismissed as retarded yet are gifted with uncanny artistic or mathematical talents. If inconceivably strange, these brilliant tales remain, in Dr. Sacks's splendid and sympathetic telling, deeply human. They are studies of life struggling against incredible adversity, and they enable us to enter the world of the neurologically impaired, to imagine with our hearts what it must be to live and feel as they do. A great healer, Sacks never loses sight of medicine's ultimate responsibility: "the suffering, afflicted, fighting human subject."
Dr. Sacks divides his book into four sections, orgainized by the effect of the disorder on the
He could have explained this better, but the defence of his position might have taken longer to explicate than the stories themselves. He acknowledges – in the preface – the ´selfless help and generosity of the patients … who, knowing (as they often did) that they themselves might not be able to be helped directly, yet permitted, even encouraged, me to write of their lives, in the hope that others might learn and understand, and, one day perhaps be able to cure.´ But as I read the case studies, and picked up – between the lines as it were – just a hint of a little too much satisfaction (to say ebullient joy might be too harsh) every now and then in Sack´s narrative as he comes across some new and interesting defect, my doubts returned. The defect is always accompanied by a real human, someone whose life in many of the earlier cases is blighted and diminished.
But then I read the last section - what Sack´s called the world of the simple – I was reassured. I can not recommend these stories too highly, and most of all Rebecca´s. I don´t know if it essential to come at these stories at the end of the book, having steeped yourself in the complexity of the mind and having gained a sense of how little we know, and how little we can do to help people with neurological defects. Would they seem less uplifting? Perhaps. But they are uplifting, and not in the sense of evoking pity, or suprise in the sense of many of the earlier stories. But in the sense that if we care to look, care to make an effort and care to understand there is the potential for wonderful things in some that we consider the most disadvantaged and unpromising. And by inference in all of us, and in ourselves. As he brings these stories to this conclusion I think Sack´s has squared the account. This is justifiably rated in some of the lists of the best books of all time.
This is a collection of previously published case studies of various neurological disorders, and reading it reinforces
The book wasn't perfect - Sacks had a tendency to meander through citations of similar cases, or other doctors' hypothesis, and when that happened, my eyes got a bit glassy, and I skimmed, but overall it's an incredibly readable collection. I wish there was more follow up for so many of these people - I'm left curious and hopeful that they all found some space in the world for themselves.
The first section centres on losses - some patients suffer from disorders which affect the memory,
The second part focuses on excesses, looking at specific cases of patients with Tourettes, a patient with sudden lack of inhibition brought on by syphilis contracted 70 years previously, and a man considered a riot to all around him, who confabulates in a hilarious manner yet sadly has no true understanding of self remaining.
In 'Transports', Sacks talks about fascinating cases such as the woman who suddenly starts hearing Irish music continuously for months on end, and has previously inaccessible childhood memories awakened by the music. Perhaps my favourite was the case of the man who, after taking mind-bending drugs, had a super heightened sense of smell for a year, to the point where he could sniff out people like a dog.
The final section, 'The World of the Simple', exemplifies just how amazingly complex the human brain is. In many of the cases cited, despite the patients being scientifically considered retarded with very low IQs, they had amazing cognitive abilities, such as the ability to learn 2,000 operas in their entirety, or to instantaneously perform complex mathematical computations. These heightened abilities of siloed intelligence are juxtaposed with their general neurological limitations, and Sacks explains how many such patients can be 'reached' by vehicles such as music, drama, nature and numbers.
With all of the cases Sacks addresses in this book, the brain injuries or conditions are never cut and dry tales of limitations; the immense power and mystery of the human brain (and strength of character) consistently prevails, totally absorbing you as a reader.
Captivating, bizarre and thought-provoking, this is a fabulous insight into the enigma of the human brain. Our health is our wealth - we have much to be thankful for.
The most moving part for me was when Sacks asked one of the Sisters looking after
This book is a series of studies by the
The most amazing part of this book is, however, the resilience of these people. I would tear my hair out, were I to instantly forget anything that I was told. The frustration of living in a constantly 'new' world would fry my brains and yet, a chap so burdened, smiles and seems to happily accept his fate, without being a drooling mental wreck.
This is not a book to read at bedtime, as I can confirm: it leads to some most disquieting dreams!
I found the book difficult at times because Dr. Sacks seems to vary between writing for the general reader and writing for those who study neurology. There are several references to other doctors and case histories that I was not familiar with, and which are not explained in the book. That being said, it is still worth reading to gain insight into humanity, the human brain and the human spirit.
- This unquestionability of the body, its certainty, is, for Wittgenstein, the start and basis of all knowledge and certainty.
I have enjoyed reading this book and all the
I see stories similar to Memento, Rain Man, and Awakenings (which this guy also wrote/experienced).
Second time reading this book. I owed it at one time but loaned it out somewhere (2008 just purchased it again). The first time reading it I was enthralled by the stories but lost in the tech talk. we are asked to read and report on a psychology book, and I thought of this one
Oliver Sacks is a caring doctor, and he writes about every one of his patients with compassion and genuine interest in them. But some of the cases are horrifying - the woman who has been 'disembodied' by her mind, or another who is trapped within a 'super-Tourette's' in which she runs through mimicry of everyone around her rapidly. Fascinating, but also heartbreaking when Sacks concludes that their condition has not, or cannot, be treated, as some of them cannot. This is an amazing book which opens up the complexities of our neurology, and how delicately we, and our 'self,' have been crafted
Facinating but still really
It can take a while to get acclimated to Sacks' somewhat florid writing style, and his habit of waxing philosophical can be off-putting to a read who is more interested in the cases than in their
Not only that, this book contains an extraordinary collection of cases of individuals with neurological disorders that brings one to understand a bit on how human brain works. While this book was first published in the early 1970s and the understanding of the human brain mechanism has changed and increased since then, I found this book to be very insightful.
Out of all the cases I have read from this book, I found the following cases (or stories) to be of great interest to me: "Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat," "The Man Who Fell Out of Bed," "Witty Ticcy Ray," "Cupid's disease," and "The Autist Artist."
This book is a fascinating read and deeply recommended.
A fascinating book.