Book 17 The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and other
Clinical Tales
by Oliver Sacks fulfilled the “Book with More Than Twenty Letters in Its Title” category
of the PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge. In fact, it has fifty-one letters. And
that’s the best thing I can say about the book.
We all know I’m not a huge non-fiction fan, though I love psychology. In
my younger days, I read Sybil and then later the book that refuted Sybil,
and other case study books about personality disorders. Not a ton, but enough. I
prefer my non-fiction to be narrative. I had high hopes for this one—from its
interesting title, the subject, the high rating on Goodreads, and all the
praise showered on a thirty-five-year-old book. It took me six weeks to read the
233-page thing.
So, to stop focusing on the negative, there were many
fascinating cases in the book, most dealing with right-brain injuries and the
manifestation of symptoms that result. The memory loss section was interesting
and sad, describing patients/clients who had lost their memories or time or sizable
chunks of their lives. (I thought of 50 First Dates, which is awful because
that movie played up taking advantage of a person with a brain injury, but I
love Barrymore and Sandler together so…I’m a terrible person.) I can’t imagine waking up each day,
each hour, not knowing where or when I was. Some of the patients lived for
years with these conditions and suffered. Some made the most of it. I’m not
sure I could handle it.
Another interesting section focused on talents
someone with either autism or brain injury might have. It was not all cases of
idiot savant, but these stories told of overcoming the assumed way of thinking about
intelligence/gifts and finding joy and enjoyment. One young lady was a natural-born actress, another loved music. One of my favorite parts what the patient’s
confession that he must have Bach in his life. I love that. The section tried
to steer away from the “party
trick” quality of the talent to the person.
My biggest criticism was the author failed to connect
with the patients and connect us to them through his writing. The entire book was
cold and distant. I understand as a doctor the need to keep back, but to engage
the reader—make them feel—we needed to connect with the clients.
He also played up the psychobabble—over-using terms
and referring to past neurologists and psychologists. The book seemed to be
written for the Psych student, not the layman. His style lacked and he could
have used a good editor. But its entry on Goodreads has a four-star rating. I’m confused.


Anyway, I give The
Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales
Three Hats

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *