Oliver Sacks, probably best known for his work that would inspire the movie Awakenings,has devoted his life to neurology and those whose brains revolt against them. In The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat Sacks shares some of his more memorable cases.
“Neurology’s favourite word is ‘deficit’, denoting an impairment or incapacity of neurological function: loss of speech, loss of language, loss of memory, loss of vision, loss of dexterity, loss of identity and myriad other lacks and losses of specific functions (or faculties).”
The title is derived from the case of a man who had a special form of visual agnosia but he isn’t, in my opinion, the most interesting case. There is the case of the middle aged gentleman who wakes up every day like he is a nineteen year old in the Navy during WW2 and the woman who self diagnoses herself with mania due to “Cupid’s disease” from her years in a brothel. He also talks a little bit about his work with “retardates” (A term that made me cringe. I checked the publish date- 1998- and cringed some more) which was a bit depressing since he didn’t seem very sympathetic.
This is one of those books I would read an essay or two a day and then put it away for a week and then pick it back up and repeat the process. I had a similar routine going with BJ Novak’s One More Thing before I returned it to the library to avoid a 3rd extension on my loan. Needless to say Oliver Sack’s work is interesting but not captivating.