The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales
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In his most extraordinary book, “one of the great clinical writers of the twentieth century” (The New York Times) recounts the case histories of patients lost in the bizarre, apparently inescapable world of neurological disorders.
Oliver Sacks’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat tells the stories of individuals afflicted with fantastic perceptual and intellectual aberrations: patients who have lost their memories and with them the greater part of their pasts; who are no longer able to recognize people and common objects; who are stricken with violent tics and grimaces or who shout involuntary obscenities; whose limbs have become alien; who have been dismissed as retarded yet are gifted with uncanny artistic or mathematical talents.
If inconceivably strange, these brilliant tales remain, in Dr. Sacks’s splendid and sympathetic telling, deeply human. They are studies of life struggling against incredible adversity, and they enable us to enter the world of the neurologically impaired, to imagine with our hearts what it must be to live and feel as they do. A great healer, Sacks never loses sight of medicine’s ultimate responsibility: “the suffering, afflicted, fighting human subject.”
that he could find his way from home to hospital and around the hospital, but yet could not name streets en route [unlike Dr P., he also had some aphasia] or appear to visualize the topography.’ It was also evident that visual memories of people, even from long before the accident, were severely impaired—there was memory of conduct, or perhaps a mannerism, but not of visual appearance or face. Similarly, it appeared, when he was questioned closely, that he no longer had visual images in his
requested, and was given, a rotating wheelchair. And now if she cannot find something which she knows should be there, she swivels to the right, through a circle, until it comes into view. She finds this signally successful if she cannot find her coffee or dessert. If her portions seem too small, she will swivel to the right, keeping her eyes to the right, until the previously missed half now comes into view; she will eat this, or rather half of this, and feel less hungry than before. But if she
Preserved—and often more: preternaturally enhanced ... This too becomes clear—often in the most striking, or comic, or dramatic way—to all those who work or live closely with aphasiacs: their families or friends or nurses or doctors. At first, perhaps, we see nothing much the matter; and then we see that there has been a great change, almost an inversion, in their understanding of speech. Something has gone, has been devastated, it is true— but something has come, in its stead, has been immensely
suddenly loomed on a blind turn. Swerving to avoid a head-on collision, he lost control, and was flung violently, head-first, onto the road. He sustained a severe head injury—massive bilateral subdural hematomas, which were at once surgically evacuated and drained— and severe contusion of both frontal lobes. He lay in a coma, hemiplegic, for almost two weeks, and then, unexpectedly, he started to recover. And now, at this point, the ‘nightmares’ began. The returning, the re-dawning, of
sometimes does), a strange and precise communication too. 24 The Autist Artist ‘Draw this,’ I said, and gave Jose my pocket watch. He was about 21, said to be hopelessly retarded, and had earlier had one of the violent seizures from which he suffers. He was thin, fragile-looking. His distraction, his restlessness, suddenly ceased. He took the watch carefully, as if it were a talisman or jewel, laid it before him, and stared at it in motionless concentration. ‘He’s an idiot,’ the attendant