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The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and…
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The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales (1985)

by Oliver Sacks

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,714142566 (3.94)260
Recently added byprivate library, GallegosFam, JanetEng, lmckreads, WestBranch, Jean_Roberts, MWise, OnneliA, sampowell365
Legacy LibrariesGillian Rose, Susan Sontag
  1. 122
    The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human by V. S. Ramachandran (lorax)
  2. 30
    Blindsight by Peter Watts (hnau)
    hnau: Science fiction inspired by the works of Oliver Sacks (among others).
  3. 20
    Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?: A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain by Timothy Verstynen (Katya0133)
    Katya0133: A humorous and decidedly irreverent take on neuroscience which nonetheless manages to be incredibly informative.
  4. 20
    Awakenings by Oliver Sacks (chwiggy)
  5. 20
    Fractured Minds: A Case-Study Approach to Clinical Neuropsychology by Jenni A. Ogden (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: I read this for pleasure but have since learned it's used as a textbook. Quite probably it's not got so broad an appeal as Sacks' book but to me the Ogden not only seems more substantial but it's even more the page-turner.
  6. 20
    Toscanini's Fumble: And Other Tales of Clinical Neurology by Harold L. Klawans (joririchardson)
  7. 20
    The Man Who Forgot How to Read: A Memoir by Howard Engel (meggyweg)
  8. 10
    A Journey Round My Skull by Frigyes Karinthy (meggyweg)
  9. 10
    Love's Executioner & Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom (clairecc)
  10. 10
    Bomb in the Brain : A Heroic Tale of Science, Surgery, and Survival by Steve Fishman (meggyweg)
  11. 00
    On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks (chwiggy)
  12. 00
    The Burning House by Jay Ingram (geophile)
  13. 00
    The Barmaid's Brain: And Other Strange Tales from Science by Jay Ingram (geophile)
  14. 00
    Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain by Antonio Damasio (ShaneTierney)
  15. 00
    The Rationality of Emotion by Ronald De Sousa (ShaneTierney)
  16. 15
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey (lucyknows)
    lucyknows: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey may be paired with The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks or even Awakenings by the same author. All three books explore the idea that once a person becomes ill or is institutionalised, they lose their rights and privileges.… (more)
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» See also 260 mentions

English (126)  Italian (6)  German (2)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (142)
Showing 1-5 of 126 (next | show all)
A book written in the 1980s by a neurologist, describing various of his patients and their neurological problems and speculating as to what can be generalised about the human brain from these case studies. Interesting but a little rambly in places.
( )
  tronella | Jun 22, 2019 |
After two of the stories in this book I've had enough. Not that the book is bad, or the stories about the patients not interesting. I just don't want to read any more of them. These were enough for me.
  BoekenTrol71 | Mar 16, 2019 |
The book is a collection of brief outlines of some interesting patients of the late neuroscientist, Oliver Sacks, of “Awakenings” fame. While the book is a bit dated- some of the terminologies, etc. are not current convention- the stories were fascinating. Sacks is a scientist and a romantic, and his descriptions of patients are respectful and affectionate with a reverence or art and spirituality that strictly scientific texts lack. This might not be Sacks at his ultimate, but it did remind me why I like him. The human brain is amazing and still such a mystery. ( )
  pdill8 | Mar 12, 2019 |
In this book Oliver Sacks presents case histories of patients with obscure but fascinating neurological disorders.

I found the book rather challenging – difficult to fully comprehend – but it was nonetheless engrossing. I was contemplating informing the potential reader that before tackling the book he should ensure he had a dictionary at hand, but realized that none of the specialized terms used by Sacks would be found in any ordinary dictionary. (Also, I get the impression that many no longer use dictionaries but avail themselves instead of the knowledge accessed by their computer (smartphone?)).

In “The man who mistook his wife for a hat” the charming Dr. P. is referred to Dr. Sacks for neurologically-caused visual problems. He thought his foot was his shoe. When looking at Dr. Sacks he focused on individual features but not his whole face.

He could pick up tiny features in a magazine picture but did not see “the scene-as-a-whole”. When looking at a picture of “an unbroken expanse of Sahara dunes on a magazine cover, Dr. P. sees a river and a guest-house with people dining out on the terrace. He was looking into thin air and “confabulating non-existent features”.

He did not recognize faces, only individual features.

When leaving, Dr. P., looking for his hat, reached out, took hold of his wife’s head and tried to lift it off! “His wife looked as if she was used to such things.”

He was “lost in a world of lifeless abstractions”.

It turned out he had a massive tumour in the visual parts of his brain.

There was Jimmie, who thought the year was 1945, although in fact it was much later. He thought he was 19 though in fact he was an elderly, grey-haired man.

He remembers all his early life, but forgets everything that has just happened.

Jimmie had lost himself but did not know it – “if he has lost a self – himself - he cannot know it, because he is no longer there to know it”.

But he had not lost his soul – in contemplating nature or art, listening to music, or taking part in mass in chapel, there would be in him “a pensiveness and peace” otherwise not seen in him.

Rebecca, 19, was “a mass of handicaps and incapacities” and was described as a “moron”; she had not learnt to read or write; though she felt herself a mental cripple, she had a feeling “of being a soul, deep and high, and equal to all others”; “spiritually she felt herself a full and complete being”.

She was at home with poetic language and “metaphors, figures of speech, rather striking similitudes” would come naturally to her.

When I read Rebecca’s statement “I’m like a sort of living carpet. I need a pattern, a design, like you have on that carpet. I come apart, I unravel, unless there’s a design”, I realize that there’s something far wrong and inaccurate about IQ testing. How can Rebecca have an IQ of 60 when she’s patently highly intelligent/gifted?

When placed in a special theatre group she “became a complete person” and one would never even guess that she was mentally defective”.

Martin, 61, became retarded following a nearly fatal meningitis, and had limited schooling but a remarkable musical education, his father having been a famous singer at the Met. Martin was “a walking encyclopedia” and knew the music of 2000 operas, all the singers who had taken the roles in countless performances and “all the details of scenery, staging, dress and décor”.

He was often childish and prone to tantrums, but when he was allowed to go to church again and sing in the choir, his life was dramatically changed.

“The pseudo-persons – the stigmatized retardate, the snotty, spitting boy – disappeared; as did the irritating, emotionless impersonal eidetic. The real person reappeared, a dignified decent man, respected and valued now by the other residents.”

The twins, John and Michael, 26, had been variously diagnosed as autistic, psychotic or severely retarded. They had remarkable “documentary memories of the tiniest visual details of their own experience” and they could say at once which day of the week a date far in the past or future had fallen/would fall.

They do not calculate these days in any way, but “see2 them.

They could tell the number of matches thrown on the floor, immediately, but they didn’t count them, they saw them.

They spoke numbers to each other, and it turned out these were prime numbers. They experienced joy in their prime number game.

These twins “live exclusively in a thought-world of numbers”. They cannot comprehend calculations. “Numbers for them are holy, fraught with significance.”

They see, directly, a universe and heaven of numbers”.

In 1977 they were separated “for their own good”, and did menial jobs under supervision and subsequently seemed to have lost their numerical power and with this “the chief joy and sense of their lives”.

The author depicts the various neurologically afflicted patients not just as remarkable cases but as complete individuals. He shows us that when they are permitted to follow their passions (Martin, his music, Rebecca, her theatrical proclivities, and another patient, Nadia, her drawing) they can become natural even gifted participators in life, but when deprived of these are simply retarded.

The author’s powers of expression and ability to fully accommodate the personality/soul of each patient described make the book a joy to read. His descriptions enrich our understanding of the various expressions of humankind.

I highly recommend this fascinating and rewarding book.
  IonaS | Feb 17, 2019 |
In his introduction to this selection of intriguing neurological cases he has encountered, Dr Sacks emphasizes the need " to restore the human subject at the centre - the suffering, afflicted, fighting human subject ...only then do we have a "who" as well as a "what" '.
And in these accounts of the strange tricks the brain can play on the person, those individuals are vividly portrayed with their coping strategies - the woman who, unable to see left would turn a full circle right; people who lose sense of their bodies and need to look in mirrors to adjust their posture.
He considers the occasional 'plus' side of mental disturbance - the heightened sensations of drug use; the re-living of past happy times, as when an elderly woman suddenly started 'hearing' songs from her early childhood, a time that had been sealed off to her in a subsequent hard life. "She felt illness as health, as healing."
He looks too at the mysteries of the 'idiot savant' - twins with learning difficulties such that they could not do simple maths, and yet were inexplicably able to perform mindboggling feats of calculation.
Fascinating book. ( )
  starbox | Feb 7, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 126 (next | show all)
In addition to possessing the technical skills of a 20th-century doctor, the London-born Dr. Sacks, a professor of clinical neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, sees the human condition like a philosopher-poet. The resultant mixture is insightful, compassionate, moving and, on occasion, simply infuriating. One could call these essays neurological case histories, and correctly so, although Dr. Sacks' own expression -''clinical tales'' - is far more apt. Dr. Sacks tells some two dozen stories about people who are also patients, and who manifest strange and striking peculiarities of perception, emotion, language, thought, memory or action. And he recounts these histories with the lucidity and power of a gifted short-story writer.
 
The book deserves to be widely read whether for its message, or as an easy introduction to neurological symptoms, or simply as a collection of moving tales. The reader should, however, bring to it a little scepticism, for outside Sack's clinic, things do not always fall out quite so pat.
added by jlelliott | editNature, Stuart Sutherland (pay site) (Dec 26, 1985)
 

» Add other authors (36 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sacks, Oliverprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cassel, BooTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goldberg, CarinCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moll-Huber, P.M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morena, ClaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wensinck, F.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
To talk of diseases is a sort of Arabian Nights entertainment.

- William Osler
The physician is concerned (unlike the naturalist)... with a single organism, the human subject, striving to preserve its identity in adverse circumstances.

- Ivy McKenzie
Dedication
To Leonard Shengold, M.D.
First words
Neurology's favorite word is 'deficit', denoting an impairment or incapacity of neurological function: loss of speech, loss of language, loss of memory, loss of vision, loss of dexterity, loss of identity and myriad other lacks and losses of specific functions (or faculties).
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
To talk of diseases is a sort of Arabian Nights entertainement / Wiliam Osler
The physician is concerned (unlike the naturalist) ... with a single organism, the human subject, striving to preserve its identity in adverse circumstances. / Ivy McKenzie
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Author Oliver Sacks
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Wikipedia in English (5)

Book description
A romantic rendering of the daily sufferings of people with relatively obscure neurological issues.
Haiku summary
Neurology doctor
Studies people as people
Not sacks for strange brains (Marissa_Baden)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0684853949, Paperback)

In his most extraordinary book, "one of the great clinical writers of the 20th 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."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:07 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

In his most extraordinary book, "one of the great clinical writers of the 20th 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."… (more)

» see all 7 descriptions

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