On the Move: A Life

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When Oliver Sacks was twelve years old, a perceptive schoolmaster wrote in his report: “Sacks will go far, if he does not go too far.” It is now abundantly clear that Sacks has never stopped going. From its opening pages on his youthful obsession with motorcycles and speed, On the Move is infused with his restless energy. As he recounts his experiences as a young neurologist in the early 1960s, first in California, where he struggled with drug addiction, and then in New York, where he discovered a long-forgotten illness in the back wards of a chronic hospital, we see how his engagement with patients comes to define his life.

With unbridled honesty and humor, Sacks shows us that the same energy that drives his physical passions—weight lifting and swimming—also drives his cerebral passions. He writes about his love affairs, both romantic and intellectual; his guilt over leaving his family to come to America; his bond with his schizophrenic brother; and the writers and scientists—Thom Gunn, A. R. Luria, W. H. Auden, Gerald M. Edelman, Francis Crick—who influenced him.On the Move is the story of a brilliantly unconventional physician and writer—and of the man who has illuminated the many ways that the brain makes us human.

Editorial Reviews

The prolific physician's adventure-filled life. Sacks (Neurology/NYU School of Medicine; Hallucinations, 2012, etc.) continues where he left off in Uncle Tungsten (2001), the story of his youthful fascination with chemistry. Describing himself as quiet, shy, and solitary, he nevertheless has become a man of many passions: science, medicine, motorbikes, and, for years, assorted drugs, including cannabis, LSD, amphetamines, and chloral hydrate. Sacks writes candidly of his mother's rage when she learned he was homosexual, and he ruefully recalls several brief love affairs. Sent away from his family during World War II, he believes, caused him to feel inhibited in intimate relationships. But he celebrates many close friendships, notably with fellow physician (and entertainer) Jonathan Miller and poet Thom Gunn, and he offers a touching portrait of his brother Michael, who was schizophrenic. Sacks went to Oxford aiming to become a research scientist, but after one project failed dismally, he followed family tradition and studied medicine (both parents and two brothers were physicians). After working at Middlesex Hospital in England, he took an internship at Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco, where he fell in love with the lifestyle and landscape, buying a motorcycle and taking to the road every chance he had. "By day I would be the genial, white-coated Dr. Oliver Sacks," he recalls, "but at nightfall I would exchange my white coat for my motorbike leathers, and, anonymous, wolf-like…rove the streets or mount the sinuous curves of Mount Tamalpais." By the time he left California in 1965, he had covered 100,000 miles. Sacks loved clinical medicine, vividly evoking his observations and investigations in Awakenings (1973), Seeing Voices (1989), and An Anthropologist on Mars (1995). The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1985) made the New York Times bestseller list and, to his surprise, catapulted him to fame. Despite impressionistic chronolog y , which occasionally causes confusion and repetition, this is an engaging memoir by a consummate storyteller. Copyright Kirkus 2015 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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