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VINE VOICEon 22 October 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In The Mind's Eye, Oliver Sacks writes about cases of persons who develop troubles perceiving visual signals. Among these are remarkable stories of courage and overcoming adverse conditions. You can't but admire a professional musician who loses the ability to read music, and carries on giving performances and teaching music, finding ways to work around the disability without complaining.
After a while (about a quarter into the book), I felt like a voyeur with an unhealthy interest in other's disabilities or difficulties. It was one case history after another, it would have been enough to be told about these conditions with some examples to flesh it out. I also would have welcomed a more in depth discussion of the neurological connections, and/or philosophical questions.
After that I did try to read on, but couldn't muster enough interest for his diary / his own case history.
I would think that his light style of writing and plenty of descriptions of medical cases of the unusual kind will find plenty of readers. But I'm not one of them.
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VINE VOICEon 16 December 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Really a wonderful book. One of Sacks finest, it really compares well to my other favourite, 'A leg to stand on'. The personal nature of the journey really gives a terrible weight to the abstract discussions of perception. The insights into the perception really are fascinating. However, Sacks cancer treatment and the subsequent changes in his vision are both heartbreaking and compelling. The difference to 'A leg...' are what happens when 30 years passes; 'A leg..' is about a young man returning to health; this book is a descent into old age as well as blindness.
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VINE VOICEon 2 November 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In this volume Sacks use studies from his own case file, including his own experiences with prosopagnosia (face-blindness) and his treatment for retinal melanoma, to show how we experience and interpret the visual world.

The case histories include a concert pianist who found that she could no longer music, a novelist who lost the ability to read, a woman who had spent most of her life with no stereo vision (an issue that Sacks himself would encounter during his treatment)and a woman left unable to speak or comprehend language (aphasia) after a stroke. Although all these cases have had major consequences for their sufferers what is remarkable about them is how they have managed to adapt to them and re-build their lives around their conditions.

Sacks writes with his usual erudition and humanity and it is particularly touching to read the frankness with which he describes his own visual frailties and his struggle to come to terms with them. Why only 3 stars? Well, while I am normally a fan of Sacks' work, I really struggled to get into this book. I'm not really sure why this should be - it just lacks a certain je ne sais quoi and never really drew me in.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is another excellent book from Oliver Sacks. The Mind's Eye is concerned mainly with vision - particularly the question of how our brains process the information from our eyes to form images, and the nature of remembered or imagined images. It is fascinating and illuminating and it has all Sacks's characteristic insight and brilliance combined with immense humanity and empathy with his subjects. It is, as always, quite beautifully written.

Following the pattern of many of his other books, Sacks gives us case studies of patients with some malfunction of their visual perception in which he gives an exceptionally clear, vivid account of the problems and a brilliant analysis of what we can learn from them about the way in which we process and use visual information. All of them are very involving and extremely interesting, and the book closes with a very fine essay about visual perception. The longest, and to me most involving, "case study" (about a quarter of the book) consists of extracts from Sacks's own journal during the time he developed a melanoma on his right retina. He observes the visual effects with characteristic brilliance, but also talks openly about his human reaction to developing cancer, to his treatment and his experiences as a patient and ultimately to losing some of his vision. It is an exceptional piece of writing even by Sacks's own stellar standard, and a very touching personal account.

This isn't a book to relax with after a rough day - it requires and deserves concentration - but it is gripping in its way and immensely rewarding. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it very warmly.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I first came across Oliver Sacks through the film Awakenings, which is based on his work in a New York hospital with a group of patients who had been left in a kind of catatonic state thanks to the great influenza epidemic after the first world war. It charted his work with them and his break through using the drug L-Dopa to wake them up.

After the film had finished I immediately read the book, written by Sacks as a serious academic study. It was quite hard work, as you might expect. There were lots of complex medical terms and footnotes that would sometimes go on for pages. Despite that, Sacks was an engaging writer who, when he wasn't writing about things out of my grasp, made a compelling narrator. The main thing that shone through in his work was his sympathy for his patients and his insistence on believing in a deep mind/body connection that most medics seem to ignore. He was convinced that the human body and mind are miraculous things and that much could be done for people with seemingly baffling or chronic conditions if the people who treated them were more open minded.

I sought out more of his work and read The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat; An Anthropologist on Mars; Seeing Voices and A Leg to Stand On with increasing pleasure. His work, over the years has become more accessible to the lay reader, the footnotes are shorter, the explanations for medical terminology are more simple, and yet Sacks does not patronise or talk down to the reader.

In this book Sacks looks at how much of what we see is physical and how much mental construct. He explores the connection between the brain and the eye, and how other senses and neurological pathways can compensate or adjust when damage occurs either to the optic nerve or the brain.

The book is broken up into chapters which roughly conform to case studies dealing with different patients, a brilliant musician who only realises something is wrong when one day she gets up to perform and cannot read the music at her piano, a novelist who has a stroke and can no longer read and write. The main chapters of the book however, deal with Sacks' own case, as he woke up one morning with a large blind spot in one eye, and found that it was caused by a tumour. He shares his experiences as a medic and as a human being in such touching detail it is a real pleasure to read.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
i really enjoyed reading this book, which feels most of all like a collection of disparate essays, case studies and diaries, rather than a single text conceived from beginning to end. It's hardly surprising that it has this bittiness, when you learn about halfway through the book that Sacks was diagnosed in 2005 as having cancer in his eye, which led him to take a rather personal view of vision loss and distortion.

The book's strengths lie in his personality: like Sherlock Holmes, he answers particularly choice letters from fans, his readers asking about their own medical questions, arriving at their homes with a team of doctors to investigate a particularly intriguing loss of vision. He is utterly knowledgable, and yet at the same time lets down his guard, letting you see him as the geek he really is, when he refers to his enthusiasm for three-d images, Klingon battle cruisers, or the number of times he got stoned since having his cancer diagnosis.

However I really got the sense that he has not yet fully processed what he has learned from the whole experience, and that he is still mulling the whole thing over: resulting in a book which itself perhaps has a blind spot: he never answers the question of how he himself feels about his illness. I'm not saying that anyone should 'have' to write about their own illness or frailties: just that I was left wondering how this had illuminated his own work as a doctor.

Nonetheless a wonderful book and it has really stayed with me; if i were ever to get weird neurological symptoms I would desperately want him turning up on my doorstep.
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VINE VOICEon 12 April 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Oliver Sacks, a leading neurologist, offers a selection of case studies each concerned with how we see things. The case studies are interesting and Sacks is an authoritative and engaging storyteller.

The table of contents is as follows, with my brief synopsis of each chapter in brackets:

-- Sight Reading (a woman loses the ability to read music or words - though she remains able to write and play music from memory)
-- Recalled to Life (a woman loses her ability to either understand language or express herself in language)
-- A Man of Letters (a man loses the ability to read; letters look like a foreign language - though he retains the ability to write)
-- Face-Blind (a chapter considering a condition under which people lose the ability to recognise faces)
-- Stereo Sue (a woman gains the ability to see in three dimensions for the first time)
-- Persistence of Vision: A Journal (Sacks himself describes his loss of vision, and how his brain compensates in surprising ways)
-- The Mind's Eye (Sacks considers how vision is related to the other senses)

As the above descriptions suggest, the overall theme is about vision and how the brain interprets information. The case studies are fascinating, and the book is rather like a collection of good short stories that are all the more interesting because they are true. Recommended!
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VINE VOICEon 29 October 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have a distinct memory of an article by Sacks that I read in the New Yorker a few years ago - one from his Musicophelia collection. I was impressed by the very lucid and yet evocative tone of his writing. My overwhelming impression, which is confirmed on reading The Mind's Eye, was that Sacks's main preoccupation was in trying to effectively communicate the experience of living in a world which is consistently mediated and distorted by a wayward mind. The science comes second; what is most interesting here is the attempt to hammer home the subjectivity of our everyday realities and the very frailness of our sensual understanding of the universe.

The Mind's Eye is best read as a series of discrete articles on a theme; anyone looking for a specific unifying arc for these case studies will be disappointed. Insights gained in one case rarely directly inform another, but on the other hand each story passed through here shows another way in which a life can be fundamentally altered by a chance impairment. Most curious for me is the musician who loses, first, her ability to sight read, and then gradually the capacity distinguish visually between concrete objects, to the extent that she can't tell a window from a wall - and beyond even that. She can distinguish between fruits by squeezing them, but when presented with them has no idea what she is looking at - even though her eyes themselves are functioning perfectly well. More and more is lost, more and more astonishingly.

The author's own experience with a retinal tumor stands out in a slightly different way, as his intimacy with the subject allows Sacks's tendencies towards the poetic to really flourish when he is describing, for example, peculiar feelings of half-blindness, of people's top halves being chopped off, and strange anomalies floating into his field of view, and of his brain working overtime to fill in the gaps. How might it feel stare at a point in the distance, a quarter of your view obscured by a tumour, and watch as the mind gradually fills the missing space with best-guess details? He does his best to explain, and often does a great job, although from time to time the descriptions become somewhat florid. Excerpts from his diaries at the time sometimes seem paranoiac and melodramatic; but I suppose they would!

On the whole this is a really interesting book. It perhaps lacks depth, but where it really excels is in its ability to push you towards understanding that what you see isn't always really what you get.
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VINE VOICEon 14 December 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I must admit, this is the first time I have read a book look this. This book is certainly interesting, from the individual case studies to personal aspect. It is cleverly written as to tell a story through other people stories whilst quietly adding more information as time goes on. Though some of the language in the book is too high brow for me to fully understand, I did get the gist of most of it and was able to follow to book easily.

It is worth a read, if only to learn about some of the more unusual afflications that can occur to people.
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VINE VOICEon 20 December 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
If you have read any other books by Oliver Sacks you will know that they are collections of fascinating and obscure medical case histories, usually linked together by a theme. In this case the theme is sight and particularly the role of the brain in vision. We meet people who have lost the ability to read words but can still write, people who have no depth of vision, people whose ability to read music comes and goes, people who cannot recognise faces and people who cannot forget them. But what sets this book apart from Sacks' other case reports (which can be a little detached and clinical) is the moving account of his own experience of ocular melanoma, a cancer of the eye. In a diary-style chapter we see how the melanoma impacts on Sacks' sensory world and how the treatment ultimately affects his vision. A compelling read.
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