It’s got bells on

Michael Neve

  • A Leg to Stand On by Oliver Sacks
    Duckworth, 168 pp, £8.95, May 1984, ISBN 0 7156 1027 9

Oliver Sacks is the Jules Verne of the neurological interface. Knowledgeable about science, he also wishes to summon a host of readers to a great adventure, a journey to the centre of the body and ways of knowing about bodies. As with Verne’s skilful use of half-understood scientific symbols, the project that Sacks has come to make his own has brought into public view a gallery of exotic events and phenomena that, precisely in their strangeness, remain memorable to the untrained reader. People have slept, and have been awoken. Others have mistaken people for hats and failed to recognise their nearest and dearest. News has come, too, from inside, and not just outside, other people. People, people who have to be thought of as patients, have been pushed to the side of their own lives; they have lost parts of their body, and started to lose themselves. The neurological sciences, as written up by Sacks for a wide audience, have opened up the abyss: under the impact of certain physical injuries, individual men and women become gaps in their own nature.

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