Friday, January 17, 2014

Book Review: The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks

It may be true that every author writes the same book over and over, but it may be especially true for Oliver Sacks. But just because his personality comes through in every book does not mean that all his books are equal. Take The Mind's Eye, for instance, and compare it to Hallucinations. Both overlap in subject area (processing of perception vs. perception of illusions), and both have case studies and both are told with Sacks's clinical, detached, humble voice. They even share some anecdotes. But I much prefer The Mind's Eye to Hallucinations. Looking back at it, it must be because while Hallucinations comes across as a jumble of random stories strung together, one thing after another, The Mind's Eye connects as a single story and tells a narrative about how the brain can compensate for loss of perception, a story with hope, the best kind. Also, each of these books has a personal story of Sacks's own experience, but while Hallucinations recounted Sacks's experience with a hallicinogen, The Mind's Eye pulls together his journals from when he was diagnosed with an eye tumor and had to adjust to radical changes in vision. A more harrowing story, but also more hopeful in the face of loss than the other one. I even found out about some fascinating studies about language that I may cite elsewhere, something that definitely didn't happen with Hallucinations. The Mind's Eye is Sacks at his best.

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