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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Last Words

A few months ago, Oliver Sacks announced that he has terminal cancer. He wrote a beautiful piece in the New York Times, and if you haven't read it, I urge you to do so now. It's here. His keen observations fill dozens of books, and even now, as he comes face to face with the end, he offers the same effortless wisdom. While I am cheered by his thoughts on a life fully lived, it's impossible not to be saddened by the thought of a world without his particular mind.

And that got me thinking about letting go of and saying goodbye to other great and creative minds.  It seems Melville House has been thinking about it too with their lovely series called Last Interviews. Each book in the collection features interviews spanning the career of various brilliant artists and writers, including the very last interview. The series currently includes Lou Reed, Hannah Arendt, David Foster Wallace, James Baldwin, and many others. These beautiful books offer insight and wisdom and the heady feeling of knowing you're reading some of the very last provocative thoughts of some of our greatest thinkers.

Speaking of great thinkers and Oliver Sacks, the man himself just published his autobiography last month. Check it out for more brilliant thoughts. And yes, that IS him on the cover. Super Hot Author Alert!

On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks

When Oliver Sacks was twelve years old, a perceptive schoolmaster wrote in his report: Sacks will go far, if he does not go too far. It is now abundantly clear that Sacks has never stopped going. From its opening pages on his youthful obsession with motorcycles and speed, On the Move is infused with his restless energy. As he recounts his experiences as a young neurologist in the early 1960s, first in California, where he struggled with drug addiction, and then in New York, where he discovered a long-forgotten illness in the back wards of a chronic hospital, we see how his engagement with patients comes to define his life. 

With unbridled honesty and humor, Sacks shows us that the same energy that drives his physical passions weight lifting and swimming also drives his cerebral passions. He writes about his love affairs, both romantic and intellectual; his guilt over leaving his family to come to America; his bond with his schizophrenic brother; and the writers and scientists Thom Gunn, A. R. Luria, W. H. Auden, Gerald M. Edelman, Francis Crick who influenced him. On the Move is the story of a brilliantly unconventional physician and writer and of the man who has illuminated the many ways that the brain makes us human.

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