This book, which is subtitled "Seven Paradoxical Tales," contains seven of Oliver Sacks' clinical stories of persons whose unusual neurological deficits teach us something about the way the brain (and, therefore, the mind) works. In "The Case of the Colorblind Painter" an artist learns to adapt to a completely black-and-white world after sustaining trauma to his occipital lobe.

"The Last Hippie" portrays a man whose ability to form new memories was destroyed by a massive midline brain tumor; he still "lives" in the 1960's. "A Surgeon's Life" depicts a Canadian surgeon with Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome, showing how he is able to live as a respected member of the community and practice surgery despite this disabling condition. "To See and Not See" tells the tale of a man in his 50's who is suddenly able to see after being blind since early childhood.

In "The Landscape of His Dreams" Sacks introduces a painter who, after a serious illness in the 1960's, apparently developed extraordinary and persistent "waking visions" of Pontito, his hometown in Italy. For many years he has obsessively painted remarkably accurate scenes of Pontito. "Prodogies" and "An Anthropologist on Mars" both deal with autism. The first tells of an autistic boy from England who has remarkable skill in visual memory and drawing; the second is about an autistic woman with a Ph.D. in animal science, who teaches at Colorado State University.


These tales are "paradoxical" because, although the people described have bizarre and extremely limiting neurological deficits, their lives give us important insights about the human mind and condition. Their ways of life have virtue and beauty, even though they at first appear quite strange. "A Surgeon's Life" and "An Anthropologist on Mars" are particularly striking stories about adaptation in the face of adversity.



Place Published

New York



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