In The Mind’s Eye, Oliver Sacks tells the stories of people who are able to navigate the world and communicate with others despite losing what many of us consider indispensable senses and abilities: the power of speech, the capacity to recognize faces, the sense of three-dimensional space, the ability to read, the sense of sight. For all of these people, the challenge is to adapt to a radically new way of being in the world.
There is Lilian, a concert pianist who becomes unable to read music and is eventually unable even to recognize everyday objects, and Sue, a neurobiologist who has never seen in three dimensions, until she suddenly acquires stereoscopic vision in her fifties.
There is Pat, who reinvents herself as a loving grandmother and active member of her community, despite the fact that she has aphasia and cannot utter a sentence, and Howard, a prolific novelist who must find a way to continue his life as a writer even after a stroke destroys his ability to read.
And there is Dr. Sacks himself, who tells the story of his own eye cancer and the bizarre and disconcerting effects of losing vision to one side.
Sacks explores some very strange paradoxes—people who can see perfectly well but cannot recognize their own children, and blind people who become hyper-visual or who navigate by “tongue vision.” He also considers more fundamental questions: How do we see? How do we think? How important is internal imagery—or vision, for that matter? Why is it that, although writing is only five thousand years old, humans have a universal, seemingly innate, potential for reading?
The Mind’s Eye is a testament to the complexity of vision and the brain and to the power of creativity and adaptation. And it provides a whole new perspective on the power of language and communication, as we try to imagine what it is to see with another person’s eyes, or another person’s mind.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Oliver Sacks is a practicing physician and the author of ten books, including Musicophilia, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and Awakenings (which inspired the Oscar-nominated film). He lives in New York City, where he is a professor of neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and the first Columbia University Artist.
Praise for The Mind's Eye…
"Remarkably graceful . . . Sacks would seem to be the ideal doctor: observant but accepting, thorough but tender, training his full attention on one patient at a time.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Elaborate and gorgeously detailed. . . . Again and again, Sacks invites readers to imagine their way into minds unlike their own, encouraging a radical form of empathy.” —Los Angeles Times
“Sacks has taken the patient history—the most basic tool of medicine—and turned it into art.” —The New York Review of Books
“Once again, Sacks explores our shared condition through a series of vivid characters. . . . The Mind's Eye is a collection of essays [with] a remarkably graceful coherence of theme, tone and approach.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Frank and moving. . . . His books resonate because they reveal as much about the force of character as they do about neurology.” —Nature
“Rich with the sort of observation and insight that makes Sacks’s writing satisfying. . . . Sacks shows us knowledge, discipline, and imagination confronting the terrors of illness and loss. . . . Readers may never take the view of a sunrise or of their child’s smile the same way again.” —Boston Globe
“From first phrase to final sentence, Dr. Sacks will draw you into a fascinating mental landscape that will leave you in awe of its strange, often spiritual and exquisite pathways.” —Bookpage
“Another masterpiece of phenomenological description by our most gifted and humane chronicler of neurological disorders. . . . Sacks effortlessly blends his teaching of neurology with the most sensitive descriptions of the ways in which our individual brains yield the most extraordinary variety of human experience.” —New Scientist
"Sacks the doctor once again dramatises the most strange and thrilling scientific and cultural issue of our time – the nature of the human mind – through the simple act of telling stories. And he does so with avuncular good nature, even in the midst of his own agonies. Read him for endless consolation" -- Literary Review
“Extraordinary. . . . An elegant mixture of case history and street-level observations of the struggles of those afflicted with visual disorders.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Brilliantly described cases. . . . The reader comes away with numinous feelings of wonder, mysticism, and gratitude. What more can one want from any book? ” —Science
“Is there anyone who’s done more to elucidate the ability in disability than Oliver Sacks?. . . . In Sacks’ world, even with great loss there are fascinating compensations.” —People
“Unfailingly wise, humane and edifying. . . . The Mind’s Eye is a welcome addition to the rich repository of Sacks’ collected works.” —The Oregonian
“Inspiring. . . . [Sacks is] as cogent and elegant as ever. . . . Sacks raises a number of fascinating questions about vision, thinking, reading and writing. . . . Erudite yet lucid.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Stellar. . . . Dazzling. . . . Sacks writes with a dexterous clarity that illuminates the incredibly complex neurological conditions he studies, and lends wit, humor, understanding and compassion.” —Dallas Morning News
“Sacks can open windows on subjects that, prior to his arrival, left people in the dark. . . . The possibility of another Oliver Sacks book is reason enough to get out of bed in the morning.” —The Hartford Advocate