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Jerome Bruner The New York Review of Books A neurologist in [the] great tradition... [this is] a narrative comparable to Conrad's The Secret Sharer.
Vic Sussman The Washington Post Book World In calling for a neurology of the soul and a deeper and more humane medicine, Sacks's remarkable book raises issues of profound importance for everyone interested in humane health care and the human application of science. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
About the Author
- ASIN : B0871KW5Z5
- Publisher : Vintage (September 29, 2020)
- Publication date : September 29, 2020
- Language: : English
- File size : 3740 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 222 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
Best Sellers Rank:
#435,264 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- #407 in Neuroscience (Kindle Store)
- #504 in Biographies of Medical Professionals (Kindle Store)
- #696 in Biology (Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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This is a slim book which would not require more than a few days to complete. Unfortunately, the text is padded by ruminations and divergent passages that make getting through the text difficult. My attention wandered, wanting to learn, "What happened next?" The illness occupied only a few weeks.
Dr Sacks' prose of course is flowery, and he has a good grasp of diverse English literature. (I am writing in the present tense; Dr Sacks passed away in 2015. The illness in this book occurred in 1974.) When he sticks to describing the illness itself, one can have a vivid account of paralysis and self-identity.
The book was early in the long literary course of Dr Sacks. I cannot help imagining that if a later Dr Sacks had written the book, it would have been more direct. A good editor could have been used.
Close to the time of Dr Sacks' passing away, a debate occurred in the scientific literature what exactly had occurred to him. Dr Sacks speculates a loss of ability to mobilize his leg caused by some sort of a peripheral nerve injury, associated with a peculiar deficient of function in the spinal cord. Sacks himself witnessed similar (but still much different) phenomena in patients he had taken care of, and even reports a similar deficit in a pet dog. A different noted neurologist ventured that actually this was what is nowadays termed "functional neurological disorder," in earlier years termed hysteria, conversion disorder, or psychogenic disorder. Sacks rebutted the notion, but he left his mind open to the possibility.
As a publishing neurologist myself, I side with the view that this was a functional neurological disorder, but not one that is founded on a foundation of anxiety or other psychiatric turmoil. More reports are appearing in the literature that some patients encounter impaired neurologic function following abrupt injuries, without the association of verifiable nervous system structural damage. These accounts, including Dr Sacks' experience, point to a kind of neurological dysfunction that is still very poorly understood, but it is very common and disabling. The good news is that such disorders can respond to concentrated physical therapy, as indeed assisted Dr Sacks himself.
Regardless of one's own opinion what may have caused the difficulty, the account provides the reader the rare opportunity for a neurologist to visit his own nervous system dysfunction, a look from the "inside out" rather than the outside perspective of doctors looking at their patients, including Dr Sacks himself in his many other wonderful books.
What Sacks concentrates on in his story are the feelings of patients, particularly his own, who have serious neurological problems and how those feelings translate to the condition itself, or the condition translates to the feelings. His most significant commentary has to do with the feelings regarding the disassociation with the affected body part. One starts to feel that it is foreign, no longer a natural part of the body. And, that it no longer exists and will never again exist to the patient.
In addition, he carefully points out the non-recognition of these patient feelings by his Neurologist who sees himself more as a fixer of mechanical problems with the body, rather than a Dr. treating a real live human being with feelings of alienation of the limb and alienation from society. Sacks writing style is sophisticate and beautiful, a rare combination for a doctor, but he achieves it like always with exquisite aplomb. The book is highly recommended for all readers interested in physical recovery, especially those who have had a significant neurological problem.
Sacks uses a personal experience to illustrate some neurological principles that assist him in his recovery.
As a general practitioner of medicine. I was enthralled.
Top reviews from other countries
OS has quite a distinct style, especially in the field of illness narrative, with plenty of allusions and literary references, and the narrative arc follows what I thought was a pleasing rebirth trajectory.
My previous encounters with OS have ended, sadly, before getting to the final page, as I have found the in-depth medical discussions a bit too intrusive to fully enjoy the ‘story’. I approached this book with a similar sense of apprehension and was pleasantly surprised.
This is a book about a doctor coping with an unexpected illness, it’s not a ‘misery-memoir’, and is generally very easy to read, except maybe right at the end when non-clinicians may find the neurology a bit too detailed. I’ve given it four stars, but I’d rate it as a 7/10.
Sacks was a very smart person indeed, and he made some significant contributions to his field. His musings here are rather hard to understand at times - he gets extremely abstract, apparently at a loss to describe the phenomena he experiences in everyday terms - but fascinating nonetheless. Realistically, he probably could have made this book considerably shorter (he pokes fun at himself at one point, with a reference to his own verbosity). Still, indulge him a little, and you'll come away with some new knowledge.
Dr Sacks quickly engages his readers, sharing with them the experience of being one moment happily and enthusiastically climbing upwards and the next a helpless cripple alone on the mountain, and subsequently his long, painful and arduous struggle to survive. He is rescued and hospitalised but this is only the beginning of his story.
This experience, for Dr. Sacks, is a learning opportunity. To understand patienthood one must first be a patient. He describes the depersonalising experience of the admission procedure, the shrinking, paralysing effect of remaining for 18 days, bed bound with his leg in a cast, in a windowless room and the lack of a listening ear as he agonizes over his strangely alien and unresponsive limb. Feelings of self respect and self integrity are lost in this 1970s hospital.
Dr. Sacks also recounts his profound neurological experience. His painstaking observations and reflections lead him to express the need to progress to a model of neurology which acknowledges that our nerves and brains are ours and their perceptions and memories represent our own personal space and are intensely subjective.