Monday, November 3, 2014

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Dr. Oliver Sacks

The Profound Affliction

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Dr. Oliver Sacks     Oliver Sacks is a famous neurologist, who gained more popularity through the movie Awakenings, which was adapted from his book of the same title, starring both Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. He worked on several other books involving rare neurological cases.

THE MAN WHO MISTOOK HIS WIFE FOR A HAT consists of select strange patients that the good doctor encountered through his practice. He strongly believes that the personhood and the study of the condition cannot be separated. The book introduces the reader to the evaluation and understanding of the entire being, looking for connections between the human experience and scientific theory. Gradually, he was able to demonstrate aspects showing that neurology, psychology, and physiology are sciences that need to fuse together to form a complete patient history, and (perhaps) alleviate the patient from his/her condition. For Dr. Sacks, these [patients’] lives and journeys have a quality of the fabulous.

If we wish to know about a man, we ask 'what is his story--his real, inmost story'--for each of us is a biography, a story.

When I said rare and strange, I am referring to a time when this book was written and published. A present reader might find the cases and terms used were already dated. Nonetheless, this book (and the author himself) actually made quite a stir during my college years. It brought a certain level of understanding to non-medical people -it challenged misconceptions and case isolation. And we cannot blame people for using commonly acknowledged terms during those years before political correctness was established.

—animals get diseases, but only man falls radically into sickness.

I must admit that I had a hard time reading the book. It was very difficult debating with a book -very unproductiveI meant debating. Believe me, I know. It was not until I convinced myself to read it as another form of literature, rather than as case studies or histories, did I finished its entirety. The telling turned out to be engaging for the most part then.

Book details:
Title: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat
Author:  Dr. Oliver Sacks
Publisher:  Odyssey Editions
Publication:  Kindle; December 15, 2014
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating:  ★★★

F2F34 discussion at Wood Neighborhood Deli, 
Makati; Moderated by Kirstel.
Photo courtesy of Monique.



  1. I keep thinking if I have read case studies before. I have a feeling they are more formal than how Dr. Sacks presented his. But anyhu, as you said, the telling is engaging, and I very much agree.:D

    1. Oh, I have no problem with Dr. Sacks' narration, he's pretty good at that actually. It's how he conducted his diagnoses mostly that hampered me. I then realized that I should give him extra allowances, because Dr. Sacks is foremost a neurologist, not a therapist. :)