Lately, I have taken to reading biographies of people I admire or who seem to have interesting lives – they have a biography after all. I chose ‘On the Move’ by Oliver Sacks because I had read his ’The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat’ while studying psychology ages ago. I had enjoyed that book immensely, and I was eager to learn more about this doctor whose field was Neuropsychology, which was my favorite while studying as well. This book, however, was not as I had expected.
Roughly the first half was plain out boring. The book discusses him moving from England to Canada and then to the USA. To me, it was not that interesting to read. He tells how he travels a lot on a motorbike through the US. I don’t care for motorcycles. I don’t care whether he had a BMW or a Norton or a Harley Davidson. To me, it’s all the same. To me, all cars are the same, to the great annoyance of my husband. I wanted to read about the neurological problems, not read about an episode of Top Gear.
At a certain point, about halfway through, things got better, and the story picked up. Dr. Sacks got to work in a hospital, and he got to treat patients with rare conditions. I loved reading about his time with the patients who had the 1920s sleepy sickness. He wrote the book Awakenings about these patients, which was later turned into the movie with the same title. I was surprised to read how Robert De Niro and Robin Williams prepared for their roles in this movie. I had not realized they would actually spend time with patients and live like their characters for days in a row.
This book was both a disappointment and an eye-opener for me. It was a disappointment because a lot of what was told was boring to me, for example, meetings with other professors or woes in his family. On the other hand, I hadn’t known he had never had one university he worked for. He always remained something of a freelancer, hopping from one hospital to another while writing his books on the subjects he chose. He has one book: ‘A Leg To Stand On’ which has taken him years and years to write. He describes a 30-day trip he took to write, where he only wrote one day. Even successful writers struggle with writing.
In the end, I cannot decide, and I don’t think he could either, whether he was more a doctor/scientist or a writer. He just always wrote. Unfortunately, he has passed away last August. The world lost a great caring doctor and an inspiring writer. I am glad he has shared his wisdom with the world.