Though I was only peripherally and more pop-culturally familiar with his work, neurologist and prolific writer Oliver Sacks’ was hard to miss these past days, as the creative community began publishing beautiful tribute and remembrance pieces in the wake of his death from cancer at age 82.
Sabine Heinlein’s lovely Swimming with Oliver Sacks, recalls her encounter with a bathing-cap-clad Sacks at a writer’s retreat in the Adirondacks in 2012.
RadioLab aired an extremely touching sit down between Robert Krulwich and Sacks, who had been a dear friend and constant inspiration to the program since its inception. The episode touches on some of Sacks’ most painful memories of love, loss, and loneliness. It’s a tear-jerker.
Starlee Kine reposted a piece she wrote in 2013, remembering the kindness Sacks displayed one summer in the late 90s, when he responded to a letter she thought he would never read.
I’ve begun digging into the archives of Sacks’ writing. To say there is a lot is an understatement. He wrote right up until the end of his life, and a note on his personal site says the latest pieces will be released posthumously in the coming weeks. Face-Blind, published in The New Yorker in 2010, is a fascinating story about Sacks’ lifetime of dealing with face blindness, or the inability to recognize familiar faces, sometimes even his own reflection. What was often mistaken for social ineptitude, rudeness, or even Asperger’s by acquaintances, was in fact just a misinterpretation of his difficulty recognizing faces.
Next on my list is his book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales, in which he recounts case histories of various bizarre and fantastical neurological disorders. Sacks was an amazing storyteller, and though he’s gone I’m much looking forward to spending some more time with him.