The Mind's Eye is a collection of essayssome of which have already appeared in The New Yorkerbut it has a remarkably graceful coherence of theme, tone and approach. Once again, Sacks explores our shared condition through a series of vivid characters…Sacks would seem to be the ideal doctor: observant but accepting, thorough but tender, training his full attention on one patient at a time. For the patient's benefit and for ours, he illuminates every uncanny detail, brings out every excruciating irony.
The New York Times
Sacks, a neurologist and practicing physician at Columbia University Medical Center, and author of ten popular books on the quirks of the human mind (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat) focuses here on creative people who have learned to compensate for potentially devastating disabilities. From the concert pianist who progressively lost the ability to recognize objects (including musical scores) yet managed to keep performing from memory, to the writer whose stroke disturbed his ability to read but not his ability to write (he used his experience to write a novel about a detective suffering from amnesia), to Sacks himself, who suffers from "face blindness," a condition that renders him unable to recognize people, even relatives and, sometimes, himself (he once confused a stranger's face in a window with his own reflection), Sacks finds fascination in the strange workings of the human mind. Written with his trademark insight, compassion, and humor, these seven new tales once again make the obscure and arcane absolutely absorbing. (Oct.)
Neurologist Sacks (www.oliversacks.com), who in Musicophila (2007) explored the human sense of hearing, once again mines his practice for fascinating case studies, this time to explore another sense, that of sight. In discussing the experiences of six individuals whose vision-related maladies force creative and often astonishing coping and adaptive behaviors, he talks of patients' inability to recognize faces, their late acquisition and loss of three-dimensional vision, and more. Sacks introduces each story, which is then read matter-of-factly by actor Richard Davidson. Sacks poignantly reads the chapter titled "Persistence of Vision"—about his own gradual loss of vision in one eye as the result of ocular cancer. A strong choice for nonfiction collections. ["The author's well-known style creatively balances complex medical discussion…with solid, down-to-earth prose," read the review of the zNew York Times best-selling Knopf hc, LJ 10/1/10.—Ed.]—Kristen L. Smith, Loras Coll. Lib., Dubuque, IA
A Financial Times Best Book
A Globe and Mail Best Book
A New York Times Notable Book
“Compelling. . . . Uplifting. . . . One more chance to bask in an extraordinary man’s irrepressible belief in the human potential to do more than survive the travails of our fragility.”
“Awe-inspiring. . . . A deeply moving book.”
—Norman Doidge, The Globe and Mail
—The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)
“Sacks invites readers to imagine their way into minds unlike their own, encouraging a radical form of empathy. . . . The Mind’s Eye expresses a stubborn hope.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Frank and moving. . . . His books resonate because they reveal as much about the force of character as they do about neurology.”
“It is a measure of his artistry that Sacks slots such funk and anxiety into a book that’s mostly about the plasticity and adaptability of the human brain; a book that busily celebrates the indomitability of people.”
Sacks (Neurology and Psychiatry/Columbia Univ.; Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, 2007, etc.) once again uses the experiences shared with him by patients and others to probe "the complex workings of the brain and its astounding ability to adapt and overcome disability."
The author provides six case histories of patients with intriguing vision problems, beginning with the story of a 67-year-old concert pianist who consulted him over her loss of the ability to read music—although she could still perform it brilliantly from memory, and even transpose a Haydn string quartet piece which she played on the piano. She also suffered from increasing spatial disorientation and difficulty recognizing everyday items. MRI tests showed increasing neurologic damage, but this did not lessen her keen insight into her own condition, even though her ability to manage independently declined. In "Face-Blind," Sacks examines his own congenital difficulty—"trouble with faces and places"—which remains a problem for him at age 76. He even once confused the face of a man seen through a window with a supposed mirror image of his own face—both sported heavy beards. The author compares his adult experience losing stereoscopic vision after suffering a tumor in one eye to that of a previously cross-eyed woman who gained it after a correction allowed her to focus both eyes. Both described a flattened perception of depth when using only one eye. Similarly, Sacks ponders the ability of the blind to visualize scenes that are described to them in vivid detail. "If there is indeed a fundamental difference between experience and description," he writes, "between direct and mediated knowledge of the world, how is it that language can be so powerful?"
As usual with Sacks, an absorbing attempt to unravel the complexities of the human mind.