cover image And How Are You, Dr. Sacks? A Biographical Memoir of Oliver Sacks

And How Are You, Dr. Sacks? A Biographical Memoir of Oliver Sacks

Lawrence Weschler. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-0-374-23641-0

Oliver Sacks, the celebrated neurologist and author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, comes across as a fascinating head case himself in this rollicking memoir. Weschler (Everything That Rises), the emeritus director of the New York Institute of the Humanities, recounts his long friendship with Sacks, focusing on the early 1980s, when Weschler was trying to write a New Yorker profile and biography of the doctor. The book is indeed largely about how the mercurial, neurotic, larger-than-life Sacks was on any given day. It unfolds in visits, outings, and restaurant meals as he veers between ebullient enthusiasms and depression and as the conversation meanders from his motorcycle speeding tickets to his weight-lifting championship, long-distance swimming exploits around the Bronx, his readings of the philosophers Hume and Leibniz, his writer’s block, the lifestyles of octopuses, and his childhood Sabbath rituals. The one constant is Sacks’s almost outrageous empathy for his neuropsychiatry patients (Weschler watched Sacks, a former drug addict, tell a patient that daily marijuana is okay but she should cut back on PCP to once a month). Sacks’s many fans will love this entertaining portrait of a charismatic original. Photos. (Aug.)