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The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales

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This description may be from another edition of this product. In his most extraordinary book, "one of the great clinical writers of the twentieth century" ( The New York Times ) recounts the case histories of patients lost in the bizarre, apparently inescapable...

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Written On

Book had written on pages. I have yet to read the book.

Excellent book of case studies on the diseases of the mind

This is a layman's journey into the case studies of nureological problems. The book is written in a clear style that makes each case a story rather than a statistic. If you've ever wondered about diseases of the mind, this is the book for you.It's not really a good book to read before bed as some of these people have problems that could make one want to stay up and talk about it with someone else.

A Neurologist with Great Humanity.

Considering my stereotyped image of a neurologist, i.e., having that strict 'scientific' view of the human being (the mind/brain having solely mechanical processes, devoid of 'soul'; a noticeable unawareness or avoidance of a human's actual 'being', that purely 'clinical' approach to the patient as mere 'subject') was exploded in a thousand pieces after reading this special book. Sacks' general humanity in general and particularly for his patients glimmered bright from every page. As a doctor, researcher and therapist in this field, he communicates quite freely and clearly as to his personal views on his profession and where he would like it to go:"The patient's essential being is very relevant in the higher reaches of neurology, and in psychology; for here the patient's personhood is essentially involved, and the study of disease and the identity cannot be disjoined. Such disorders, and their depiction and study, indeed entail a new discipline, which we may call the 'neurology of identity', for it deals with the neural foundations of the self, the age-old problem of mind and brain.' (X)This book is a collection of twenty-four cases, clinical tales about people who, in some cases, have been struck with terrible brain related illnesses during the prime of their lives. The physical, emotional and very foundations of how they function and view the world, has been drastically altered. In the case of 'The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat', Dr. P., a musician of distinction, teacher and accomplished painter, developed a type of visual agnosia or prosopagnosia, where he could not recognize faces and came to see things, people and objects as something else. His entire perceptions of the world had totally changed. One aspect of this particular story that was interesting was Dr. P's paintings, which Sacks observed hanging on the wall of his home. In the beginning the paintings depicted a 'realist' style, almost mirror representations; as the years went by, each painting became more impressionistic, ending in the most recent work being entirely abstract. Sacks made a comment about this fact to the Dr.'s wife, who believed that his artistic style simply matured over the years. However Sacks saw the paintings as representing the progressive nature of the man's condition. I found this case to be at once bizarre, interesting and sad. Most if not all of the cases in this book are bizarre, interesting and sad, but Dr. Sacks conveys a deep humanity, a scientific concern and a real hope that the profession will find more effective ways in dealing with the brain. He believes the profession should re-think their approaches; perhaps ask different questions, however, most importantly, not forget that, as physicians, they're not dealing with just 'clinical subjects', but human beings with identity. In other words, to truly understand the brain/ mind relation, the essential being, science and the humanities must join forces. One can see from this wonderful book, that O

Hang on to your right hemisphere!

This is one of the most entertaining and thought provoking books I've read in a while. Oliver Sacks has done a marvelous job of illustrating just how mysterious and tenuous our perception of the world is by relating stories about patients who have suffered some kind of injury to the right hemisphere of their brains. Why the "right" hemisphere? As Sacks explains, the left hemisphere has a fairly comprehensible role; it seems to follow rules. When it does not function appropriately, the consequences are reasonably predictable. "Indeed, the entire history of neurology and neuropsychology can be seen as a history of the investigation of the left hemisphere."In contrast, the right hemisphere has been something of an enigma, and is consequently called the 'minor' hemisphere. But, "it is the right hemisphere which controls the crucial powers of recognizing reality which every living creature must have in order to survive." For example, the right hemisphere is responsible for "proprioception", which allows us to feel our bodies as "proper to us"; that they belong to us. This is so basic that it is difficult to even imagine what it would be like to have impaired proprioception. Sacks is keenly aware of this challenge; in a sense, the entire book is an attempt to give us a glimpse into such an incomprehensible world.Sacks quotes Wittgenstein:, "The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. (One is unable to notice something because it is always before one's eyes.)" Those things that are most basic, most obvious, have a deeply mysterious foundation in the brain. One can begin to appreciate this when one considers those unfortunate individuals who have lost some of these basic perceptions due to injury or illness. As Sacks points out in the introduction, "It is not only difficult, it is impossible, for patients with certain right-hemisphere syndromes to know their own problems... And it is singularly difficult, even for the most sensitive observer, to picture the inner state, the 'situation', of such patients, for this is almost unimaginably remote from anything he himself has ever known."Sacks presents detailed and compassionate accounts of numerous patients whose worlds are indeed unimaginably remote from our own. He tells us of patients who have difficulty distinguishing between people and inanimate objects, those who have perfect "vision" yet cannot discern the purpose of an object without tactile feedback, those who fail to recognize their own limbs as belonging to them, and those who have lost fundamental spatial concepts, such as the distinction between left and right. One of the most intriguing cases that Sacks presents is that of a woman who had "totally lost the idea of 'left', both with regard to the world and her own body," a condition known as hemi-inattention. To this woman, everything in her left visual field simply ceased to exist, in analogy to the way each of us fills the

A Deeply Spiritual Book

I first encountered the essay "Rebecca" (one of the fine "clinical tales" in Sacks's book)in a Norton Anthology I used in a writing course. In this essay, Sacks describes his encounter with a young girl on a park bench outside the hospital. Later, he encounters her in a clinical setting as a patient, and has a different view of her. His clinical methodology uncovers her deficits; his challenge is to see past them to the whole spiritual being he saw sitting on a park bench transfixed with the beauty of spring. That he is able to do so refocuses his attitudes toward his other patients, for what he sees in Rebecca, he now "saw in them all." For me what was most interesting about these fascinating stories is that the underlying question has to do less with cures for bizarre neurological diseases, than with the essential question of what makes us who we are, and what do we do when our entire concept of self is savaged and the world left unrecognizable? For Sacks, at least part of the answer lies in art--the narrative in the synagogue that knits Rebecca's deficits and makes her whole (holy?); the music that enables some patients who are unable even to walk without difficulty, the ability to dance; the notes that enable stutterers to sing. This is a wonderful book that does what wonderful books do--it makes the reader look again at what he only thought he saw before, and see it whole.
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