Essentially an anthology of hallucinations, Oliver Sacks’ latest book will be familiar reading – stylistically – for anyone who has followed his career. The neurologist-turned-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.