- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; First edition (January 12, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0375700730
- ISBN-13: 978-0375700736
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 64 customer reviews
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#126,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #9 in Books > Textbooks > Medicine & Health Sciences > Allied Health Services > Optometry
- #11 in Books > Textbooks > Medicine & Health Sciences > Medicine > Special Topics > Essays
- #12 in Books > Textbooks > Medicine & Health Sciences > Medicine > Clinical > Radiology & Nuclear Medicine > Diagnostic Imaging
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The Island of the Colorblind First Edition
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"Magical . . . Sacks's fans are in for a treat." --Kirkus
"An explorer of that most wonderous of islands, the human brain," writes D.M. Thomas in The New York Times Book Review, "Oliver Sacks also loves the oceanic kind of islands." Both kinds figure movingly in this book--part travelogue, part autobiography, part medical mystery story--in which Sacks's journeys to a tiny Pacific atoll and the island of Guam become explorations of the time, and the complexities of being human.
"Sacks's total immersion in islands life makes this luminous, beautifully written report a wonderous voyage of discovery. As a travel writer, Sacks ranks with Paul Theroux and Bruce Chatwin. As an investigator of the mind's mysteries, he is in a class by himself."
From the Inside Flap
Oliver Sacks has always been fascinated by islands--their remoteness, their mystery, above all the unique forms of life they harbor. For him, islands conjure up equally the romance of Melville and Stevenson, the adventure of Magellan and Cook, and the scientific wonder of Darwin and Wallace.
Drawn to the tiny Pacific atoll of Pingelap by intriguing reports of an isolated community of islanders born totally color-blind, Sacks finds himself setting up a clinic in a one-room island dispensary, where he listens to these achromatopic islanders describe their colorless world in rich terms of pattern and tone, luminance and shadow. And on Guam, where he goes to investigate the puzzling neurodegenerative paralysis endemic there for a century, he becomes, for a brief time, an island neurologist, making house calls with his colleague John Steele, amid crowing cockerels, cycad jungles, and the remains of a colonial culture.
The islands reawaken Sacks' lifelong passion for botany--in particular, for the primitive cycad trees, whose existence dates back to the Paleozoic--and the cycads are the starting point for an intensely personal reflection on the meaning of islands, the dissemination of species, the genesis of disease, and the nature of deep geologic time. Out of an unexpected journey, Sacks has woven an unforgettable narrative which immerses us in the romance of island life, and shares his own compelling vision of the complexities of being human.
"From the Hardcover edition.
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On one island that Sacks visited, there are many bars serving, not alcohol, but a bordeerline-hallucinogenic fluid, and, in the interest of science and discovery, he drank a great deal in one session. (You have to love Oliver Sacks.)
The huge overflow of information in the book makes for a huge section of endnotes. I finally decided, after frustratingly leafing back and forth, to simply blast ahead with the body of the book and then read the endnotes as just another chapter. It worked; the endnotes really do stand on their own.
The second half of the book deals with Guam, where scores of people are suffering from a debilitating illness with symptoms that mimic the vast and varied symptoms of the post-encephalitis patients we saw in Awakenings. You will discover the mystery surrounding this disease, and the overwhelming task of trying to find a cause of this illness.
One of my favorite things about Dr. Oliver Sacks is that when he writes about these illnesses and patients, he is not treated them as just another case. After you read about each individual person, as we did in Awakenings, you feel as though you actually knew the person an experience a portion of the hurt the family feels. Dr. Sacks writes each case with love, and you can feel that he actually loves and cares for these people. Experience an amazing journey on some of the vast illnesses that affect the human brain and thus the rest of the body.
My biggest fault with Sacks is that he can drone on about minutiae in the middle of a scintillating story and lose the interest of his readers. I love a good detailed medical story, and I don't have ADD or anything, but I skipped through many pages of "An Anthropologist on Mars", in spite of the great stories in that book.
In *this* book he keeps the tale lively and doesn't lapse into stupefying detail. It's full of juicy tidbits from a variety of areas: the history and anthropology of the peoples of the Pacific islands, personal anecdotes of the people he meets, a delightful travelogue, descriptions of beautiful ferns and cycad forests, adventure, mystery...
Main story #1: The genetically color-blind people of a small Pacific island. How did they get to be that way? What is it like to live on a small primitive island in a village of color-blind people?
Main story #2: What caused the majority of the population of Guam in the early part of this century to fall ill with a mysterious Parkinsonian-like disease that in some cases wiped out entire families? Oh, and here's the rub...this disease has now almost disappeared. Could it be the cycads? Or not?
Having just finished the book today, I am aware of a sadness within me, a sadness that my journey to the South Pacific with Dr. Sacks has ended. I return to my clinic tomorrow morning to see patients, but my heart for some days to come will be on Pingelap, or Guam, or.......
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