SCIENCES

And How Are You, Dr. Sacks? A Biographical Memoir of Oliver Sacks

Farrar. Aug. 2019. 400p. photos. index. ISBN 9780374236410. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780374714949. SCI
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Weschler (Waves Passing in the Night) met with the late British neurologist Oliver Sacks (1933–2015) almost weekly from 1981 to 1984, compiling 15 volumes of source material comprised of interviews with Sacks himself, as well as his lifelong friends, colleagues, and family members. The intention was to write a biography, but Sacks, uncomfortable with making public certain aspects of his personal life (primarily his sexuality) asked Weschler to shelve the project. As Sacks neared death from terminal cancer, he asked Weschler to return to the book. The result is a unique account that reads like an extended, erudite, and entertaining New Yorker article; this is unsurprising since Weschler was a staff writer for the magazine for two decades. With Weschler’s examination, Sacks’s larger-than-life presence is humanized. Readers are essentially in the room with Sacks and Weschler as they converse about many topics, including Sacks’s childhood, experimentation with drugs, mentors, and work with patients.
VERDICT This biographical memoir offers a window into the world Sacks inhabited: a world full of brilliance, insecurity, and a robust enthusiasm for life. Recommended for readers who wish they had had the privilege of knowing Sacks while he was alive.

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