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An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales

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An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales Cover

ISBN13: 9780679756972
ISBN10: 0679756973
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Neurological patients, Oliver Sacks once wrote, are travellers to unimaginable lands. An Anthropologist on Mars offers portraits of seven such travellers — including a surgeon consumed by the compulsive tics of Tourette's syndrome unless he is operating; an artist who loses all sense of color in a car accident, but finds a new sensibility and creative power in black and white; and an autistic professor who cannot decipher the simplest social exchange between humans, but has built a career out of her intuitive understanding of animal behavior. These are paradoxical tales, for neurological disease can conduct one to other modes of being that — however abnormal they may be to our way of thinking — may develop virtues and beauties of their own.

The exploration of these individual lives is not one that can be made in a consulting room or office, and Sacks has taken off his white coat and deserted the hospital, by and large, to join his subjects in their own environments. He feels, he says, in part like a neuroanthropologist, but most of all like a physician, called here and there to make house calls, house calls at the far border of experience. Along the way, he shows us a new perspective on the way our brains construct our individual worlds. In his lucid and compelling reconstructions of the mental acts we take for granted — the act of seeing, the transport of memory, the notion of color — Oliver Sacks provokes anew a sense of wonder at who we are.

Review:

"Sacks offers seven portraits exemplifying the 'creative' potential of disease....True to his past work, he offers compelling stories told with the cognizance of a clinician and the heart and compassion of a poet." David R. Johnson, Library Journal

Review:

"A multi-faceted masterpiece...a joy to read....Sacks invites hope where hope has been proscribed, an act that by itself makes this book priceless." Chicago Tribune

Review:

"A wonderful new book [that] hums with emotional and intellectual energy....It is Dr. Sacks's gift that he has found a way to enlarge our experience and understanding of what the human is." The Wall Street Journal

Review:

"Sacks has refined the case history into an art form." Time

Synopsis:

To these seven narratives of neurological disorder Dr. Sacks brings the same humanity, poetic observation, and infectious sense of wonder that are apparent in his bestsellers Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. These men, women, and one extraordinary child emerge as brilliantly adaptive personalities, whose conditions have not so much debilitated them as ushered them into another reality.

About the Author

Oliver Sacks is a practicing physician and the author of twelve books, including The Mind's Eye, Musicophilia, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and Awakenings (which inspired the Oscar-nominated film). He lives in New York City, where he is a professor of neurology at the NYU School of Medicine.

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Rick Vigorous, July 20, 2015 (view all comments by Rick Vigorous)
With characteristic insight and charm, Dr. Sacks describes the cases of seven patients that he’s worked with, illustrating the ways in which we humans have a remarkable capacity for adaptation in the face of all manner of neurological mishaps. The important lesson of the book is that we can obtain deep insights into the human mind by carefully observing the ways in which it sometimes malfunctions. As Sacks writes, "Defects, disorders, diseases, in this sense, can play a paradoxical role, by bringing out latent powers, developments, evolutions, forms of life, that might never be seen, or even be imaginable, in their absence. It is the paradox of disease, in this sense, its “creative” potential, that forms the central theme of this book."

The first case described by Sacks is that of Mr. I, a painter who lost his color vision--all of his color vision, in contrast to the much more common red-green colorblindness--following a car accident. There are some surprising details: the patient's vision was in many ways improved, with Mr. I claiming that he could read a license plate in the dark from several blocks away; and he also found that his memory of color had been erased along with his perception of it, perhaps illustrating a deep principle about the way in which memories of sensory experiences are rerouted through the sensory apparatus of our minds as we reexperience them. In addition, Sacks manages to sprinkle throughout the chapter a fascinating lesson about the history of our scientific understanding of color vision.

Later chapters describe the “last hippie,” who lost the ability to form new memories after 1970; a man with Tourette’s syndrome who, despite exhibiting a wide array of verbal and motor tics in his normal life, is able to bypass these when performing his professional activities as a surgeon; a patient who had been blind from early childhood and had his sight restored, only to find the world confusing and disorienting, illustrating how vision is something that we learn with our brain in addition to seeing with our eyes; a man who spends his entire adult life painting incredibly detailed and accurate pictures of the village he grew up in, which he has not visited since he left Italy as a child; an autistic boy with remarkable artistic abilities; and an autistic woman who, despite extreme difficulty in understanding other people and the emotional worlds they inhabit, pursues a successful academic career in agricultural science and manages to develop a remarkable degree of empathy with cattle.

Some of the findings seem simply bizarre. Regarding the blind man whose sight was restored, Sacks writes that while he "could recognize individual letters easily, he could not string them together--could not read or even see words. I found this puzzling, for he said that they used not only Braille but English in raised or inscribed letters at school--and that he had learned to read fairly fluently.” Other observations are poetically amusing: “He had expected a quarter moon would be wedge-shaped, like a piece of cake, and was astonished and amused to find it a crescent instead."

It’s no wonder that Sacks has been described by the New York Times as the unofficial “poet laureate of medicine.” With remarkably keen observation, clarity, and wit, he manages to draw our interest into these patients’ cases on the one hand because they are so unusual, and on the other hand because they lead to lessons that are so universal.
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Kacey, January 23, 2014 (view all comments by Kacey)
Even with all that we know, there's still so much that's a mystery! Oliver Sacks investigates seven paradoxical tales about how we perceive color, access memory, concentrate and more! They will blow your mind! Absolutely fascinating. Oliver Sacks is an amazing writer, able to communicate complex medical information in a way that's easy to absorb. Such a great book. Highly recommend!
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Kirsten, August 17, 2006 (view all comments by Kirsten)
Another excellent collection of neurological oddities from Oliver Sacks. While Sacks is writing about these people because they have some kind of odd or fascinating difference, I appreciate the way that he strives to give the reader a sense of the subjects as people rather than walking case studies.
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(16 of 25 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780679756972
Subtitle:
Seven Paradoxical Tales
Author:
Sacks, Oliver
Author:
Sacks, Oliver W.
Publisher:
Vintage
Location:
New York :
Subject:
Essays
Subject:
Neurology
Subject:
Medical sciences
Subject:
Neuropsychology
Subject:
Anecdotes
Subject:
Neurology -- Anecdotes.
Subject:
Neurology - General
Subject:
General Psychology & Psychiatry
Subject:
Psychology-Mind and Consciousness
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Vintage
Series Volume:
104-686
Publication Date:
19960213
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
8.12x5.14x.76 in. .79 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Essays
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » General
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » History of Medicine
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Medical Specialties
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Professional Medical Reference
Health and Self-Help » Psychology » Mind and Consciousness

An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales Used Trade Paper
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$6.50 In Stock
Product details 352 pages Vintage - English 9780679756972 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Sacks offers seven portraits exemplifying the 'creative' potential of disease....True to his past work, he offers compelling stories told with the cognizance of a clinician and the heart and compassion of a poet."
"Review" by , "A multi-faceted masterpiece...a joy to read....Sacks invites hope where hope has been proscribed, an act that by itself makes this book priceless."
"Review" by , "A wonderful new book [that] hums with emotional and intellectual energy....It is Dr. Sacks's gift that he has found a way to enlarge our experience and understanding of what the human is."
"Review" by , "Sacks has refined the case history into an art form."
"Synopsis" by , To these seven narratives of neurological disorder Dr. Sacks brings the same humanity, poetic observation, and infectious sense of wonder that are apparent in his bestsellers Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. These men, women, and one extraordinary child emerge as brilliantly adaptive personalities, whose conditions have not so much debilitated them as ushered them into another reality.
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