Wired has a nice little promotional interview with Oliver Sacks about his new book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. Every since devouring his The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, I’ve been a devoted fan of Sacks’ work. Human experience and the mind are profound mysteries, and Sacks has always been one of their best and most insightful explorers.
As a doctor who deals regularly in bizarre and obscure disorders of the brain and nervous system, Sacks provides readers with the sort of insight that can only come from reflecting on truly altered mental perspectives: what would it be like to lose your sense of having a body in space? To truly have no ability to form new memories? To suddenly and shockingly be convinced that your own leg is something so alien and offensive that you actually try to push it out of your hospital bed so as to be rid of it? To have your brain split in half and find one hand undoing the buttons on your shirt that your other hand had just finished buttoning?
When I despair at the sheer vacuity of supernatural “explanations” for our minds, experiences, and feelings (or tire of empty or unintelligible concepts like “souls” and “free will”) it’s someone like Sacks that I can turn to for relief. There are no proud claims of final answers. There are instead intriguingly robust and meaty pieces of the puzzle, and much more satisfying for all that.
So, as I said about economist author Steven Landsburg, Sacks provides a truly “high-information content” product: one’s money’s worth of surprise and insight packed into nearly every page. Man Who Mistook… comes highly recommended, and I can’t wait for his latest.