An Anthropologist on Mars

by Oliver Sacks

ISBN: 0679756973

Sacks has more feel for narrative flow in this latest collection of case studies. I felt that medical jargon was intrusive in The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, but not so with this book. His concern here is in capturing the personhood as well as the pathology.

There are seven central figures in this book: a painter who completely loses his color vision due to brain injury; a young man whose frontal lobes are nearly destroyed by a benign tumor; a surgeon with Tourette’s syndrome; a man with near total blindness whose vision is temporarily restored; an artist who paints only his obsession — the small Italian village he grew up in but hasn’t seen in decades; an autistic boy with savant-like graphical abilities; and an autistic woman who earned her Ph.D. and is internationally recognized as an expert in her field.

At times I feel he is reaching too far, and perhaps sentimentalizing his subjects. But what makes his books so readable is his desire to find out, to the extent he can, what makes these unique individuals tick, neurologically speaking. What questions about how the human brain and mind function do these people expose? What, in fact, is the difference between brain and mind? It is the fascination with this intersection: brain and mind, what makes us who we are — that leads to the writing (and reading) of these books.

Interesting. Definitely recommended.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *