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The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales Paperback – April 2, 1998
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Clarence E. Olsen St. Louis Post-Dispatch A provocative introduction to the marvels of the human mind...
Noel Perrin Chicago Sun-Times Dr. Sacks's best book.... One sees a wise, compassionate and very literate mind at work in these 20 stories, nearly all remarkable, and many the kind that restore one's faith in humanity.
New York Magazine Dr. Sacks's most absorbing book.... His tales are so compelling that many of them serve as eerie metaphors not only for the condition of modern medicine but of modern man.
About the Author
Oliver Sacks was born in London and educated in London, Oxford, California, and New York. He is professor of clinical neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He is the author of many books, including Awakenings and A Leg to Stand On.
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When publishing a work of any genre, there are universal guidelines that publishers and editors MUST follow. These give the reading public a sense of cohesion and makes them able to pick-up and read any text by any publisher. If all publishers had vastly different systems of layout, style and protocol, then reading would become increasingly difficult and tiresome. Point in contention, titles.
On the upper portion of a page there are one of four basic options:
i) author's name (not recommended),
ii) book title (also, not recommended),
iii) chapter (recommended),
iv) sub-group, such as single story title in a collection of short stories (necessary).
Whichever of these you pick, the left and right pages need to contain DIFFERENT information so that the reader can find, re-find or locate their place in the book - the last page they were reading if they put the text down. So, that established, the upper titles act as form of navigation for the reader, a universally adhered to rule (unless you are David Carson et al.). So then, editors at Picador, why did you in your ultimate wisdom (can you sense my sarcasm there) decide to put the SAME chapter title on BOTH the left AND the right page? Pray tell, what inspired such divergence from the established protocol? Especially when all it serves to do is disorientate the reader and render navigation redundant. E.g., I am reading the first story and the title piece to the book, and I look up to see the information on the upper page, and what does it say? NOTHING! It simply tells me TWICE, the title of this chapter! not the title of the story I am reading!
When I noticed this I was quite taken aback at the utter stupidity of the publishers in allowing this decision to pass numerous committee stages, and for what ultimate purpose was it agreed? Does in add to my reading experience? No! Does it give me extra information? No! Does it aid me in any way, shape or form? NO! Does it annoy me? Yes! Does it detract from the enjoyment of reading? Yes! Does it make navigation difficult? YES!
My advice to any potential reader is to buy another imprint, there are lots out there. Choose one my a publishing house that follows publishing protocol and etiquette, and not one that wants to re-write the rules because they appear to have nothing better to do with their time.
1. The human brain is not some sort of organ separate from our soul/consciousness/self. It IS our consciousness. When it gets changed, we are changed. I think a lot of people implicitly think of the brain as just something that memorizes dates and facts for school, and don't really think of it as the core of their self.
2. The brain, while impressive, is not really a truthful measurement machine. In reality, it's kind of slapped together from a bunch of co-processors and self delusion to make us think our senses are telling us the true story of the world. If one of those co-processors is damaged, weird stuff happens. For example, the title story. The brain does not observe impartially. Human faces are not processed in the same way that hats are processed. If that part of the brain is damaged, then one can, indeed, mistake their wife for a hat.
One minor nitpick I can think of is that the author spends a lot of time grandly editorializing about the philosophical implications of the stories after telling each one. I would have preferred to keep this a bit more minimal and let the stories speak for themselves - they are full enough without him pointing it out. Another thing that personally kind of puts me off is the fact that the whole book is predicated on the Freud/Jung school of psychology, which I think too often was not really based in observation and scientific method. I am sure you can find all sorts of half-truths and unsupported claims in the book if you really start to dig into and research the stories. Still, it makes for great reading.
And that's the thing; this is chiefly a pop-psychology book. No matter the minor flaws in writing, or patchy science, or flawed observation, it doesn't strongly detract from the central ideas of the book. I would consider this book one of the few universally important books I've read, because the stories themselves cut so close to the core of our life experiences. Not just in the obvious ways (ex. trying to explain to a child why Alzheimer's disease is affecting their grandfather), but also in understanding why we are the way we are.
Sorry, I just realized I made myself guilty of "grandly editorializing about the philosophical implications of the stories"... It's hard not to do!