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Being close to 'Stereo Sue' and Howard Engel


The final compilation for The Mind's Eye
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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So, I had a lot to write about. I had too much to write about and, I think, it must’ve been in, I don't know, about in '09 – some of the years start to collapse for me and more so now than in the past, I clearly distinguish ‘73 from ‘74. I less clearly distinguish ‘08 from ‘09, even though it’s... one would think it would be the other way round – I decided, or we decided... it was a sudden brainwave... I was... I was struggling with the thought of a book which was getting uncontrollably large and one day, in fact, I was coming back from a medical appointment and we were caught in a traffic jam, because the United Nations was in session as, indeed, they are today again, and in this intolerable traffic jam, Kate and I got talking about writing and together we had a brainwave. Why not extract the hallucinations, they needed their own book, and put together what remained: the three case histories, my own visual journal and The Mind’s Eye. This would form a tidy little book. We showed it to my editor at Knopf. He said, 'I love it, but it’s too short'. He said, 'Knopf made you quite a handsome advance and they expect more for their money than this'. He said, 'This is only 40,000 words. It’s got to be 60,000. We need two more case histories’, or whatever, and it was then that I added two case histories, one about face blindness and one of a Canadian novelist who suddenly, as a result of a stroke, lost the ability to read, although he was perfectly able to write. The... so all of these came together in the book The Mind’s Eye.

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: The Mind's Eye, United Nations, Alfred Knopf, Howard Engel, Kate Edgar

Duration: 2 minutes, 35 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012