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

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

by Lawrence Weschler


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The untold story of Dr. Oliver Sacks, his own greatest patient

Lawrence Weschler first met Dr. Oliver Sacks in the early 1980s, when he set out to profile the neurologist for The New Yorker. At that time, Sacks had just published Awakenings, an account of his long-dormant patients’ miraculous but troubling return to life in a Bronx hospital ward. But the book was not an immediate success, and the rumpled clinician was immersed in a deep writer’s block as he struggled to complete his next book, A Leg to Stand On. Over the next several years, the two men became close friends, and Sacks duly appointed Weschler as his official biographer. It was the start of the joint voyage of intellectual discovery that is chronicled in And How Are You, Dr. Sacks?

In this book, Weschler sets Sacks’s brilliant table talk and extravagant personality in vivid relief, casting himself as a beanpole Sancho to Sacks’s capacious Quixote. We see Sacks rowing and ranting and caring deeply; composing the essays that would form The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat; recalling his turbulent drug-fueled younger days; helping his patients and exhausting his friends; and waging intellectual war against a medical and scientific establishment that fails to appreciate his greatest concern: the spontaneous vitality of the human soul. And all the time he is pouring out a stream of glorious, ribald, hilarious, and often profound conversation that establishes him as one of the great talkers of the age. Here is the definitive portrait of Sacks as our preeminent romantic scientist, a self-described “clinical ontologist” whose entire practice revolved around two questions he asked his patients: How are you? How do you be?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374236410
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 08/13/2019
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 169,295
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Lawrence Weschler is the director emeritus of the New York Institute of the Humanities, artistic director emeritus of the Chicago Humanities Festival, and the author of numerous books, including Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder and Everything That Rises.

Table of Contents

Prologue 3

Part I Getting to Know Him

1 Going for a Row 19

2 Early Childhood, a Harrowing Exile, Cruel Judaism, Homosexuality, and a Mother's Curse 27

3 Conversations with Bob Rodman and Thorn Gunn in California 35

4 A Visit to the American Museum of Natural History in New York and Lunch at a Japanese Restaurant 49

5 Oliver's Cousins Abba Eban and Carmel Ross 60

6 From California to New York (1962-1967) 65

7 The Migraine Clinic (1966-1968) 73

8 The Awakenings Drama (1968-1975) 79

9 On Rounds with Oliver at Beth Abraham 107

10 Auden and Luria 113

11 A Visit with Oliver to London, including Conversations with Eric Korn, Jonathan Miller, and Colin Haycraft 128

12 On Rounds with Oliver at the Little Sisters and Bronx State 184

13 Ward 23 196

14 John the Touretter 202

Part II How He Was (the Passing Months)

15 The Blockage Begins to Break (1982-1983) 221

16 The Leg Book Shambles Toward Publication as Oliver Hazards a Neurology of the Soul (the First Half of 1984) 252

17 The Publication, at Long Last, of the Leg Book; Its Reception; Sancho Launches into His Profile and Is Stopped (the Second Half of 1984) 282

Part III Afterwards

18 Dear Friends (1985-2005) 305

19 A Digression on the Question of Reliability and the Nature of Romantic Science 336

20 His Own Life (2005-2015) 347

Postscript 365

Acknowledgments 369

Index 371

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