Roth Reviews Oliver Sacks’ New Memoir

Michael Roth

Michael Roth

Reviewing Oliver Sacks’ new memoir, On the Move, in The AtlanticPresident Michael Roth writes that the celebrated neurologist “opens himself to recognition, much as he has opened the lives of others to being recognized in their fullness.”

The memoir begins in Sacks’ early life, when a teacher noted in his report card that “Sacks will go far, if he does not go too far.” Sacks describes going to extremes in areas of his life ranging from recreational swimming to competitive weightlifting to drug use. A native of England, Sacks traveled to the United States after completing his medical training to get space from his parents and two brothers who all worked as doctors. Roth writes:

Going far career-wise was something Sacks fervently desired. “Here I am, look what I can do,” is how he describes his feelings about his first professional intervention into the American neurological community. Sacks would develop a genius for recognition of another sort, for paying attention to people whose illness might have rendered them invisible but for his gift of seeing them as beings with histories, with contexts. This genius he combined with his own craving for recognition—writing as a witness to the lives of others in such a way that he himself would be acknowledged through the quality of his testimony.