Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to


Posted by nliakos on August 24, 2013

by Oliver Sacks (Knopf 2012)

How unusual and refreshing: a non-fiction book with a one-word title and no sub-title.

In this book, neurologist Oliver Sacks lays out, chapter by chapter, the many different types of hallucinations (visual, auditory, olfactory…) and the many different possible causes of these (impaired vision, disease–such as migraine, epilepsy, or Parkinson’s, delirium, drugs, or sensory deprivation; he does not include schizophrenic hallucinations). He explains that although most people are reluctant to admit to having hallucinations of any kind, they are actually quite common and certainly do not mean that the hallucinator is “crazy.”  Many people  even experience hallucinations while falling asleep or waking up. He fills the book with anecdotes from former patients or people who wrote to him about their experiences. I found the book interesting and instructive, although it could not entice me away from other pursuits. It did make me a bit envious of those who experience hallucinations, which can be quite wonderful (although they can also be frightening or repellent).

I hope Oliver Sacks keeps writing for many years to come.



2 Responses to “Hallucinations”

  1. A couple of decades ago I attended a talk by Oliver Sacks at the University of Texas. I was disappointed because he turned out to be a poor public speaker, at least at that event, which is still the only one I have to go on. Luckily his writing doesn’t suffer in the same way (either intrinsically or because he has good editors).

  2. nliakos said

    Steve, I have also heard Oliver Sacks speak (here in Washington at the Smithsonian) and I also found his speaking style to be underwhelming. I guess being a wonderful writer doesn’t automatically translate into being a wonderful speaker. But why should it?
    I am always surprised when actors turn out to be great dancers, singers turn out to be able to act, etc. It seems to me that these are very different skills. Public speaking is a skill that a lot of people don’t have. (On the other hand,I am often wowed by TED talks, which are often given by folks who don’t do it much but who seem able to pull together great talks in spite of that.)

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