Sunday, August 30, 2015

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks died today. He was a famous doctor who wrote numerous books and articles. His specialty was neuroscience; he focused on the brain and its workings.

I mention Sacks because you might have seen a 1990 movie about him. His book "Awakenings" was made into a movie starring Robin Williams (playing Sacks) and Robert DeNiro (a patient). It described Sacks's effort to get patients who were thought to be brain-dead back to normal life. The book was based on Sacks's true experiences at a hospital in the Bronx (NY).

I read many of Sacks's newspaper articles over the years. He was an excellent writer who engaged your interest and explained things you wouldn't ordinarily care about. He was as good a writer as he was a physician.

In February, I read an article by Sacks in The New York Times where he revealed that he was in the final stages of terminal cancer. He wrote at the time:

"It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers."

In his personal life, Sacks was a shy person who didn't reveal that he was gay until this year. It wasn't until he was 82 years old that he came out of the closet. That's profoundly sad, but I understand it. He grew up in my parents' generation when homosexuality was considered deviant and even a crime. It's hard to adjust and accept that society's attitude has changed when most of your life you're taught that you'll be punished for revealing yourself. That's not an unusual perspective to have.


  1. I first discovered Oliver many years ago via The New Yorker. He really was a wonderful writer and an outside of the box thinker. We need more kind, funny, intelligent people like him. He will be missed.

  2. I read his books as a counseling student, and he's left his mark. A wonderful writer, and from all accounts a lovely person.

  3. what lovely paragraph he composed and shared before his death. That is as I would expect. I respect him very much, II enjoyed his writing and one book in particular, that I can not remember at the moment. ironic, huh? That is a pity
    about being closeted for so long, But he left his life on firm and honest territory, with true admiration of all of his gifts.
    Thanks for sharing this.
    xx, Elle

  4. He seemed like a very humane and compassionate man.

  5. I actually did not know anything about Oliver Sacks before reading this blog post.Thank you a lot for sharing this! It seems that he was a symphatetic and modest person.

    Thanks a lot for your last visit on my blog! It always means a lot to me : )

  6. What a beautifully haunting and powerfully wise quote from the good doctor. May we all have the same kind of strength and grace when our time comes.

    ♥ Jessica

  7. that's so sad. I loved and read his books esp one about deaf people (it did help my family to get calmer when we knew my niece can't hear).
    I haven't read anything new about him lately so I didn't know about cancer or being gay (it's so sad he couldn't proudly live all of his life as a gay person).

  8. i was very familiar with his work, but didn't know he came out. so many notable deaths over the weekend.