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My handsome mug


Uncle Tungsten: I want my work delivered in full, not in excerpts
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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The... the book was slated for publication in October of '01. When 9/11 happened, we wondered, I wondered, Kate wondered, the publishers wondered about the sense of publishing a book three... three weeks after this catastrophe. But for better or worse the book was published then. I’ve never been able to tolerate delays in publication. When Colin wanted to... get excerpts from Awakenings put in newspapers and delay the publication date, I said 'No, it has to be published before my 40th birthday'. Well, there was no particular birthday here, but I... I always feel that any minute and any moment and any year may be my last, and so I want to see something as soon as possible when it is finished. I don’t hurry it, and production is like pregnancy. I’m gravid and turgid for a long time, but when the baby is delivered, I want to hold it in my arms, I want to look at it, I want to smell it, I want to feel it. It is very much like having a baby, and one wouldn’t want that to be delayed, no indeed.

Oliver Sacks (1933-2015) was born in England. Having obtained his medical degree at Oxford University, he moved to the USA. There he worked as a consultant neurologist at Beth Abraham Hospital where in 1966, he encountered a group of survivors of the global sleepy sickness of 1916-1927. Sacks treated these patients with the then-experimental drug L-Dopa producing astounding results which he described in his book Awakenings. Further cases of neurological disorders were described by Sacks with exceptional sympathy in another major book entitled The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat which became an instant best seller on its publication in 1985. His other books drew on his rich experiences as a neurologist gleaned over almost five decades of professional practice. Sacks's work was recognized by prestigious institutions which awarded him numerous honours and prizes. These included the Lewis Thomas Prize given by Rockefeller University, which recognizes the scientist as poet. He was an honorary fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and held honorary degrees from many universities, including Oxford, the Karolinska Institute, Georgetown, Bard, Gallaudet, Tufts, and the Catholic University of Peru.

Listeners: Kate Edgar

Kate Edgar, previously Managing Editor at the Summit Books division of Simon and Schuster, began working with Oliver Sacks in 1983. She has served as editor and researcher on all of his books, and has been closely involved with various films and adaptations based on his work. As friend, assistant, and collaborator, she has accompanied Dr Sacks on many adventures around the world, clinical and otherwise.

Tags: Uncle Tungsten, Awakenings, Colin Haycraft

Duration: 1 minute, 30 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012