a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Anecdote: Writing about Cold Storage


Talking like I write and vice versa
Oliver Sacks Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

Christopher, you... you said that my talking sounded somewhat like my writing, or something of the sort, but I’m going to tell you a couple of stories in relation to that. I’ve mentioned that I was doing case histories of Awakenings in the summer of 1972. I wasn’t actually writing them – I’d had quite a bad neck injury and I was partly paralysed in both arms, and I really couldn’t hold a pen or type, and I had to wear a high, high collar. But I... I would get myself comfortable, I would look through my notes, and then I had a shorthand typist – probably... this is probably an extinct species now, I don’t know.

Now, I didn’t dictate. I told her stories – her reactions, her facial expressions were very important to me; it was sort of like Scheherazade in reverse – and she would listen and turning it into shorthand, and the next morning she would bring it up to me, typed up, and I would go over it. Now, no one has ever commented on any difference, but in fact the first nine case histories of Awakenings were written and the latter 11 case histories were spoken, and were never written.

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: Awakenings, Scheherazade

Duration: 1 minute, 41 seconds

Date story recorded: 19-23 September, 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012