Seeing Voices

( 3 )

Overview

Like The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, this is a fascinating voyage into a strange and wonderful land, a provocative meditation on communication, biology, adaptation, and culture.  In Seeing Voices, Oliver Sacks turns his attention to the subject of deafness, and the result is a deeply felt portrait of a minority struggling for recognition and respect--a minority with its own rich, sometimes astonishing, culture and unique visual language, an extraordinary mode of communication that tells us much ...
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Seeing Voices

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Overview

Like The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, this is a fascinating voyage into a strange and wonderful land, a provocative meditation on communication, biology, adaptation, and culture.  In Seeing Voices, Oliver Sacks turns his attention to the subject of deafness, and the result is a deeply felt portrait of a minority struggling for recognition and respect--a minority with its own rich, sometimes astonishing, culture and unique visual language, an extraordinary mode of communication that tells us much about the basis of language in hearing people as well. Seeing Voices is, as Studs Terkel has written, "an exquisite, as well as revelatory, work."

Covers a history of the deaf, the battle for acceptance in a hearing world and sign language as communication.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book will shake your preconceptions about the deaf, about language and about thought—. Sacks [is] one of the finest and most thoughtful writers of our time."—Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Fascinating and richly rewarding—. Sacks is a profoundly wise observer."—The Plain Dealer

"One cannot read more than a few pages of Sacks without seeing something in a new way. His breadth of understanding and expression seems limitless."—Kansas City Star

"A remarkable book, penetrating, subtle, persuasive—. [It] will likely become a classic."—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Booknews
Sacks (neurology, Einstein College of Medicine, and well-known as the author of The Man who mistook his wife for a hat) discusses the history, culture, and language of deaf people in the US. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375704079
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/28/2000
  • Series: Vintage Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 242,640
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks lives in New York City.

Biography

"I think writing and language are not just to articulate or communicate, but they are also to investigate," the writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks once said. "For me, writing and medicine, writing and science, are not separate: they entail each other." Sacks grew up in a large and prodigiously gifted family of scientists; with their encouragement, he set up his own chemistry lab and spent his days in a swirl of sulfurous fumes and smoke. He was also fascinated by biographies, and spent hours poring over the lives of great scientists like Dmitri Mendeleev, Humphrey Davy,and Marie Curie. When the chaos of World War II and traumatic experiences at boarding school intruded on the "lyrical, mystical perceptions" of Sacks' childhood, he clung to scientific knowledge as a means of ordering and understanding the universe.

After his medical training at Oxford, Sacks migrated to the States to pursue a career in neurology research. But he made a clumsy lab researcher. "I was always dropping things or breaking things," he explained in a lecture, "and eventually they said: 'Get out! Go work with patients. They're less important.'" Sacks went to work at Beth Abraham Hospital in the Bronx, where he was struck by the sight of patients who had survived encephalitis lethargica, the "sleeping sickness." The patients were nearly immobile, but the nurses who cared for them insisted that there were living personalities behind the frozen masks, and Sacks believed the nurses. The story of his work with these patients is told in Sacks' 1973 book Awakenings, which inspired a movie starring Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro and also formed the basis of a play by Harold Pinter.

But Sacks is perhaps best known for his collections of case histories (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, An Anthropologist on Mars et al.), which probe the experiences of people with disorders and rare neurological conditions. In telling their stories, he often questions our assumptions about the nature of human consciousness. Part what distinguishes Sacks' work from the traditional case study is his interest in how a patient functions with a disorder, not just how he or she is impaired by it.

Sacks has also drawn on personal experience for wonderfully resonant scientific memoirs that recall his remarkable family, people who have influenced and inspired him, and his lifelong love of medicine and physical science. Meanwhile, he continues to work with patients, to understand them through writing about them, and to point his readers toward new ways of understanding themselves. As Thomas P. Sakmar, interim president of Rockefeller University, said in awarding Sacks the Lewis Thomas Prize: "Sacks presses us to follow him into uncharted regions of human experience -- and compels us to realize, once there, that we are confronting only ourselves."

Good To Know

As a child, Sacks was fascinated by the periodic table of the elements at the Science Museum in London. His boyhood love of chemistry hasn't waned: according to an article in Wired, Sacks owns half a dozen T-shirts with the periodic table printed on them, along with periodic-table coffee mugs, tote bags and mousepads.

Sacks's memoir Uncle Tungsten inspired the creation of Theodore Gray's Periodic Table Table, a wooden table representing Mendeleev's table of the elements and containing samples of each element. Sacks later paid a visit to see the Periodic Table Table -- wearing, of course, one of his periodic-table T-shirts.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      1933
    2. Place of Birth:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      B.M., B.Ch., Queen's College, Oxford, 1958

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A new appreciation for the deaf and the sign language

    Most of the information that we get about the world comes through the sense of sight. Therefore it would seem that it there is one sense that we would be loath to part with, it would be this one. And yet, it is the sense of hearing that has the greatest impact on the acquisition of language and subsequently on the formation of our minds. If we don't acquire language really early on in our lives, we are bound to lead a very limited existence as compared to most other people. It is these facts and some other very deep and important ones that I was able to gather from this Oliver Sacks book. It really opened my mind to the world of deaf people in a profoundly different way. Sacks documents various attempts over the last few centuries to give deaf people a chance to acquire a sign language, and different approaches to the education of the deaf. The book also opened my eyes to the fact that the sign language is a real language, qualitatively and profoundly different from simple gesticulations and gestures that we engage on a daily basis in our regular communications. In fact, the sign language is in one sense much more complex than the regular spoken language. One can argue that the spoken language is one-dimensional - it consists of sounds of different pitch and duration in time. On the other hand, the sign language is four-dimensional - it employs all three dimensions of space to create various hand configurations and adds an extra layer in the form of motion.

    One of the greatest features of Olives Sacks' writing is the highly sophisticated and literary style that he employs. I would love reading his books even if he were describing the content of a box of cereal. We are fortunate that his writing brilliance is matched with the vast knowledge and expertise that he has in neuroscience. It is this incredible combination of writing and scientific talent that makes each of his books a masterpiece.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2013

    Stage

    Stage

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2013

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