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The places I have swum


How I met the fabulous Kate Edgar
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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I should tell you, yes, or did I say this in the piece, this is essentially how Kate and I met because I retained an apartment in a little hotel on a lake. And in the summer of '82 I was working on my intolerably obstructed book, A Leg to Stand On. That damn book took me 11 years to write, partly because I... it kept going wrong and I couldn’t bear thinking on the accident. But by '82, I think I’d got to convalescence, and I was writing about this... at the little hotel; I’d swim in Lake Jefferson and as I swam paragraphs would start to... to write themselves in my mind. And when I couldn’t hold any more in my mind I’d land and quickly write things down, obviously dripping all over the manuscript as I did so.

And when this manuscript was received by my publisher he said, first, no one had sent him a... a hand manuscript in 30 years, second, it looks as if this one had been dropped in the bath. And he said he didn’t know anyone who could do anything with it, except...  'Yes', he said, they’d had a remarkable young woman who’d been working at Summit, but now she was freelancing on the West Coast and that he would send it to her.

And... this is Kate Edgar. The manuscript came back, it was an amazing piece of, I don’t know what word I want... it was deciphered quite amazingly, I couldn’t have deciphered it myself.  And there were all sorts of intelligent and interesting and creative questions and suggestions. And I wrote back and I said, 'Dear Miss Edgar, you’re fabulous, if you ever come to the East Coast look me up', and there she is, 27... oh, nearly, I’m sorry, 29 years later. 29 years later.

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: A Leg to Stand On, Lake Jefferson, Kate Edgar

Duration: 2 minutes, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012