Stela's Reviews > The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Nov 10, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: psychology-etc, reviews
Read from November 02 to 10, 2012 — I own a copy

A music teacher is unable to recognize faces anymore and mistakes his foot for a shoe, his wife for a hat, and his only way to understand world remains music. A forty-nine-year-old man remembers his life until nineteen with amazing accuracy but forgets what he was doing 5 minutes ago. A woman wakes in the morning with the sensation she's disembodied and cannot move unless she watches the part of the body she wants to move. A young man finds a strange object in his bed that he refuses to acknowledge as his own foot. An old woman isn't aware of the left part of her body so she makes up only the right part of her face. Another one imitates with an amazing speed the expressions of the people in the street. An almost deaf woman wakes up in the morning because of a loud Irish music which she eventually has to admit is playing only in her head. And so on, and so forth.
Did you think Marquez, or Borges, or even Kafka? Think again! For this is life, people, not literature. However, what in literature is beautifully strange and oddly reassuring - in the end it's only imagination, isn't it? - in real life it's scary, weird - and the hypochondriac me found at least two or three symptoms on myself leading to a fatal neurological disease to freak me out! Funny enough, while reading in parallel Norwegian Wood I suddenly found plenty explanation (neurological ones, of course) behind all those suicides! :)

It seems that the intention of the book is to impose some archetypal figures for a new science: the neuro-psychology. My neurological knowledge is inexistent, my psychological one, next to, so I have no tool to judge the scientific aspect of the book, but as a novice I was fascinated by the cases presented and it even helped me to better understand some disease that I've heard of, such as Tourette's or autism.
Maybe the author's revelations are not fascinating in the way Freud's were, because where Freud dismantled the mechanism of the conscience to reveal the depths of the subconscious, Sacks can only identify an organic disease, that changes human nature, it's true, but doesn't explain or helps to understand it.
For my part, I relished learning some beautiful words (with not such beautiful meanings, however) as aphemia (inability to express ideas verbally ), alexia (inability to read), ataxia (inability to move), etc. I found it is an interesting idea and it stands to reason the hypothesis that the visions of the saints were often due to migraines and ⁄ or seizures.
Finally, I appreciated the author's care for composition - the book is round - it begins with the story of a man who lost his concrete understanding of the world and it ends with the story of a young man who lost his abstract representation of the world.

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales.
Sign In »

No comments have been added yet.