hal­lu­ci­na­tions

Oliver Sacks Knopf

NZ Today - - ON BOOKS - A spe­cial book. A lit­tle piece of magic.

Essen­tially an an­thol­ogy of hal­lu­ci­na­tions, Oliver Sacks' lat­est book will be fa­mil­iar read­ing – stylis­ti­cally – for any­one who has fol­lowed his ca­reer. The neu­rol­o­gist­turned-au­thor has a way of shar­ing – al­most over-shar­ing – that gives you an in­ti­macy with the sub­ject even if there is a lot of jar­gon weigh­ing down the sto­ries.

Ac­tu­ally, Sacks makes med­i­cal sto­ries re­mark­ably read­able, jump­ing from his per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences to cen­turies-old text­books and back again.

So Hal­lu­ci­na­tions fol­lows re­cent books from Sacks where, un­for­tu­nately, the sheer amount of case-stud­ies starts to be­come daunt­ing.

Hal­lu­ci­na­tions is of­ten fas­ci­nat­ing – but af­ter a while the style of clin­i­cally work­ing through case af­ter case can get a lit­tle much.

Of course part of the point of of­fer­ing so many ex­am­ples is to try to cover the range of hal­lu­ci­na­tions.

And there's a charm to Sacks in the way he will break code and re­veal a naughty truth about him­self; some drug-ex­per­i­ment from his youth, a lit­tle rule-break­ing in a quest to go above and be­yond with re­gard to di­ag­nos­tic du­ties.

I strug­gled to stay en­gaged in parts – and though I'm very glad to have read this, to have pro­cessed some truly fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ries as well as get­ting an­swers to some of my own ques­tions about sleep de­pri­va­tion-re­lated vi­sions and voices – my favourite part of read­ing this book was ac­tu­ally the joke-op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“I'm read­ing this book about Hal­lu­ci­na­tions”, I would say. Adding quickly, “at least, I think I am...”

Or that time when read­ing in bed my wife won­dered aloud why I wasn't read­ing my book. “I am I said” – arms up in the air, an in­vis­i­ble book some­where in the space be­tween my hands.

So thanks Oliver Sacks. That's about as good as the jokes get at our house.

Si­mon Sweet­man

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