Tuesday, July 07, 2015

"On The Move, a life", memories from Oliver Sacks

This recently published memoir/autobiography by the neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks has been interesting and at times compelling reading here.  After seeing his work in "The New Yorker" for years and occasionally in "The New York Review of Books"when at the library, it is clear now that much of the life of this highly energetic medical researcher, clinician, motorcyclist, body builder, swimmer, skier, and all around generalist of  adventure was unknown to me.

His early life in England(which he still views as his home), his talented family, his education at Oxford, his move to California in the 1960's and his move to New York in the 1980's, where he still lives, are all covered, all important geographic aspects of his life, and that is apart from his travels to all parts of the world.  He has had a life of relationships with smart or highly educated people, in many places.  He has been a chronic risk taker in many ways.  

His practice involves neurology in the first instance, but at times veers into psychology and other areas, as well as his love of playing the role of general practitioner, as both of his brilliant parents did while being specialists at the same time.  He has not been a proponent of the ever increasing specialization obsession in medicine in the last 40 years, and pays attention to interrelationship of the various problems of his patients.  

Sacks has had his own share of medical, neurological, and occasionally psychological problems as well, and as unpleasant as some have been he has viewed most as an experience to ultimately benefit from intellectually and to apply to his practice.  At 85, ill health seems to be catching up with him by all reports, and that makes this writing effort somewhat remarkable.  Many accomplished people aspire to sum up their lives with insightful writing, but a decline in health, enthusiasm, or memory often makes this impossible.  For Sacks, this was not an obstacle.

Best known for his, at times, popular accessible writing(criticized by some in the academic community), this book is still filled with medical research in his past that sent this reader to the dictionary or the internet for definitions or information.  "On The Move..." is without question a book written to be read by laymen as well as professionals, but it can occasionally be a mite bit taxing for those unfamiliar with some of the diseases that he treats.  

In closing I note the following Sack's comments from the closing pages.  "The act of writing is an integral part of my mental life; ideas emerge, are shaped, in the act of writing... Over a lifetime, I have written millions of words, but the act of writing still seems as fresh, and as much fun, as when I started it nearly seventy years ago."

In this comment on Eyes Not Sold, the surface of this book has only been touched.      


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