Richard Kramer'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
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Jun 22, 12

Recommended to Richard by: David Schweizer
Recommended for: anyone with a soul
Read in June, 2012, read count: 1

I thought I'd read this, because everyone has, and over time one convinces oneself of a lot of things. But I hadn't read it, and was spurred to do so by anticipating a production of the opera based on it to be directed by a friend.

I Kindled it. The highest praise I can give a book now is I want the book itself, on my shelves, nodding to me for the rest of my life. Such is the case with this one.

Is it still a compliment to call someone a humanist? That's what Oliver Sacks is. He is also the rare mix of an empath and a scientist. And he's a superb writer. The book is made up of about twenty case studies, some detailed, some brief. They are about people who have suffered some disturbance to the brain that has set them off from others, who have becomes cases, who suffer both their symptoms and their marginalization, who are out of the flow of ordinary life and, often, in hospital settings, where demands are put on them that refuse to acknowledge the unique poetry of their distress.

Sacks sees both the suffering and the poetry. Most often his cure is to simply allow his patients (he finds the term "clients" odious) the dignity of otherness and to try to help them find a way to use their idiosyncratic disturbances in creative and fulfilling ways. This is, of course, almost impossible in a medical model that trains its soldiers to see only deficits, lacks, failures to be "normal". Sacks struggles (successfully) to overcome the precepts of that model and forces himself -- and us -- to view all the men who mistake their wives for hats as full people with untapped possibilities.

So now I've read it. And I'm lucky it said "You've never read me. Is now the time?"
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message 1: by Linda (new)

Linda This is a "should have read it by now" for me, too. Thanks for a review inspiring me to kick it up a few notches on my list!


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