A friend and I were having coffee the other day, and the conversation turned to the recent deaths of Wayne Dyer, who I wrote about last week, and famed neurologist/writer Oliver Sacks. She recommended I read his memoir, On the Move: A Life. Since I was about to get on a plane and needed something to read, I thought, “Why not?”
I’ll never be able to think about Dr. Sacks without remembering the movie Awakenings, based on Sacks’ book of the same name. The late great Robin Williams played him, so in my brain, when I think of Oliver Sacks, I picture Robin Williams.
Oliver Sacks was more than a pioneering physician and neurologist. He was, as a young man, a bit of a daredevil, especially on a motorcycle. He also battled amphetamine addiction and disapproval from his colleagues. On the Move details adventures and misadventures of his colorful life.
The beginning of the book feels disjointed as Sacks lays the groundwork for the story he has to tell, but if you hang in there, it gets better. What I found most compelling is his insatiable curiosity and penchant for obscure, long-forgotten medical books. The sheer twists and turns of this man’s mind gave me the sense of riding on a mental roller coaster.
For writers, Sacks includes plenty about his writing process. Despite his brilliance, he carried the same self-doubts that plague any writer. He tended to display his through over-writing and a fondness for excessive footnotes, but any writer will nod his or her head in recognition while reading these passages.
Dr. Sacks died August 30 of cancer at the age of 82. His unique way of looking at medicine, and the larger world, will be sorely missed.