Synopses & Reviews
Have you ever seen something that wasn’t really there? Heard someone call your name in an empty house? Sensed someone following you and turned around to find nothing?
Hallucinations don’t belong wholly to the insane. Much more commonly, they are linked to sensory deprivation, intoxication, illness, or injury. People with migraines may see shimmering arcs of light or tiny, Lilliputian figures of animals and people. People with failing eyesight, paradoxically, may become immersed in a hallucinatory visual world. Hallucinations can be brought on by a simple fever or even the act of waking or falling asleep, when people have visions ranging from luminous blobs of color to beautifully detailed faces or terrifying ogres. Those who are bereaved may receive comforting “visits” from the departed. In some conditions, hallucinations can lead to religious epiphanies or even the feeling of leaving one’s own body.
Humans have always sought such life-changing visions, and for thousands of years have used hallucinogenic compounds to achieve them. As a young doctor in California in the 1960s, Oliver Sacks had both a personal and a professional interest in psychedelics. These, along with his early migraine experiences, launched a lifelong investigation into the varieties of hallucinatory experience.
Here, with his usual elegance, curiosity, and compassion, Dr. Sacks weaves together stories of his patients and of his own mind-altering experiences to illuminate what hallucinations tell us about the organization and structure of our brains, how they have influenced every culture’s folklore and art, and why the potential for hallucination is present in us all, a vital part of the human condition.
From the Hardcover edition.
"Olive Sacks sets himself a challenging task in his latest book: to explore the full range of human hallucinations, those figments of the imagination that terrify, madden, comfort, or merely entertain. Drawing on famous cases, from Joan of Arc to Dostoyevski, Sacks charts a diverse and pervasive phenomenon, one rich in colorful examples caused by trauma, drugs, illnesses, the mind's deterioration, or boredom and the absence of stimuli. The scope of human hallucinations Sacks presents is staggering for its range, myriad causes, and levels of severity. Some hallucinations are little more than distractions: an imagined song in place of silence, a conversation with an absent friend, a light sense of dÃ©jÃ vu. For others hallucinations create the fabric of the world in which they live, with the often-frightening images overwhelming reality. The solid performance of Dan Woren, whose business-like narration is the one constant throughout, keeps the listener grounded even during the book's most fantastic passages. Woren offers a brisk reading that when paired with the author's elegant prose guides listeners safely on a long and surreal journey through fantasy and nightmare. A Knopf hardcover. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the best-selling author of Musicophilia and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, a provocative investigation into hallucinations—auditory, visual, tactile, olfactory—their many guises, their physiological sources, and their personal and cultural resonances.
Hallucinations, for most people, imply madness. But there are many different types of non-psychotic hallucination caused by various illnesses or injuries, by intoxication—even, for many people, by falling sleep. From the elementary geometrical shapes that we see when we rub our eyes to the complex swirls and blind spots and zigzags of a visual migraine, hallucination takes many forms. At a higher level, hallucinations associated with the altered states of consciousness that may come with sensory deprivation or certain brain disorders can lead to religious epiphanies or conversions. Drawing on a wealth of clinical examples from his own patients as well as historical and literary descriptions, Oliver Sacks investigates the fundamental differences and similarities of these many sorts of hallucinations, what they say about the organization and structure of our brains, how they have influenced every culture's folklore and art, and why the potential for hallucination is present in us all.
About the Author
OLIVER SACKS is a practicing physician and the author of 10 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 and psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and the first Columbia University Artist. The author lives in New York, NY.