I discovered the writings of Dr. Oliver Sacks in the late 80s when I ordered The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat from a subscription book club. I’d always found articles about learning and the mysterious workings of the brain fascinating, and this collection of stories from Dr. Sacks’s practice didn’t disappoint. I can’t remember if I read his book, Awakenings, before seeing the movie (with Robin Williams playing the part of Dr. Sacks), but the story gripped me. Seeing Voices, Musicophilia, The Mind’s Eye, and his recent autobiography, On the Move, have also entertained and educated me.
However, decades after I realized that my difficulty in recognizing people was unusual, and a few years after I discovered a name that described my experiences — Prosopagnosia — I found out that this author I had enjoyed for 30 years shared that condition with me. While I wouldn’t place The Mind’s Eye at the top of my list of “Best of Oliver Sacks,” just the fact that it included a section on face blindness (the more pronounceable, yet misleading name) was enough to make it a “must read” on my list.
Plus, when people give me that look (“Yeah, right.”) when I apologize for not recognizing them, I can cite a leading neurologist and famous author who had a far more serious case of prosopagnosia than mine. See, I didn’t just make this stuff up.
Dr. Sacks passed away today. I’ll miss his essays (here’s a very recent one) and I’ll miss his writing once I finish reading all his titles.