For some reason, I thought this book’d be shorter. Don’t get me wrong, totally worth all 296 pages, but something about the cover posted by whichever of you reviewed this and convinced me to read it (speak up now, and I’ll totally link to you. I’ve already trolled through a dozen blogs looking for you!) made me think that it was a short’un. Lesson learned: don’t judge a book’s length by a 2-D representation of its cover.
An Anthropologist on Mars – Oliver Sacks
An Anthropologist on Mars is a series of bizarre neurological case studies. I know, snore, right? Wrong. CRAZY business. Did you know that some people who go blind (go blind, not are born blind) have forgotten what sight entails and are convinced that they can, in fact, see? And that if you ask them to point to things in the room, they will gesture at random but be totally convinced that they’re doing what you asked them to, because THEY FORGET WHAT SEEING IS! As the one fellow says, ‘If I were blind, I would be the first person to know it.’ How do you argue with that? Besides not knowing he’s blind, this guy is also trapped in the 70’s because he can’t make any new memories (Memento-style. Do you think he is also Guy-Pearce-hot? Purrrr).
Then there’s this guy who’s a surgeon, but he has Tourettes! Which is insane. What about Tourettes says to you, Yes, surgeon is a great career choice? But apparently his twitcheties all disappear when he’s slicing people. I know a Touretter who’s a youth pastor, and his tics all vanish when he gets up to preach. It’s trippy.
And then there’s this guy who went blind verra young, and now he’s in his fifties and science has come so far as to be able to restore to him sight. And you’re asking, But if he hasn’t formulated a paradigm of sight, won’t suddenly being able to see eff him up? And the answer is Yes, it did, as you so eloquently put it, eff him up.
And then there’s a guy who paints his childhood town with eerie detail FROM MEMORY, and then a whole chapter on prodigies, and then a chapter on the world’s most famous autistic person, Temple Grandin. That woman blows my mind.
Everything about this book blew my mind. The brain is a circus, people, full of acrobats and bearded ladies. One little slip, and you have got pandemonium.
My only beef with Sacks is that he put the most technical, jargony case first, so I’m reading it and I’m all, Eugh. This book is going to be work. Consequent chapters were much less expert-sciencey and the book is, on the whole, surprisingly readable, but I was worried for a bit there.