The River of Consciousness

Oliver Sacks. Knopf, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-0-385-35256-7
Acclaimed neurologist Sacks (1933–2015) demonstrates the range of his knowledge of evolution, botany, chemistry, medicine, neuroscience, and the arts in this collection of 10 essays he was working on before his death in 2015. The book is a tribute to his appreciation of all that’s beautifully complex in humans. In “Darwin and the Meaning of Flowers,” Sacks examines Darwin’s late-career studies of plants and worms, writing of Darwin’s belief that natural beauty “always reflected function and adaptation at work.” In “Speed,” he lauds William James for his exploration of the perception of time and how it was altered “by the effects of certain drugs.” Sacks also lends his own perspective on the perception of time, gleaned from working with patients with “disorders of neural speed,” which he documented in 1973’s Awakenings. One of the most moving pieces, “The Fallibility of Memory,” argues that humans are “landed with memories which have fallibilities, frailties, and imperfections—but also great flexibility and creativity.” Sacks pays homage to Freud in “Mishearings,” asserting that Freudian slips are more than expressions of repressed feelings: “They reflect, to some extent, one’s own interests and experiences.” Sacks also writes about his own cancer in “A General Feeling of Disorder” and how a respite from sickness filled him with gratitude. Readers will feel a similar sense of gratitude for the extraordinary work that Sacks left behind. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/25/2017
Release date: 10/24/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-0-8041-9233-0
Hardcover - 256 pages - 978-0-345-80899-8
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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