Man Who Mistakes

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Man Who Mistakes

By | December 2012
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What would you say to a man who would not recognize his own leg, or to a man who mistook his wife for a hat? The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat is a collection of 20 stories involving Oliver Sacks’ patients. His patients may have coordination disorders, cerebral palsy, Tourette’s, or other neurological disorders. I was attracted to this book by it title, but it was a very intense look into some psychological conditions.

In all of Sacks’ stories, one factor stands out. He shares his experiences with readers to dispel prejudice against people who are different because of their problems. One very important truth that Sacks tries to incorporate into his life and work is that one can respect others no matter what their limitations may be. One of the stories "The Dog Beneath the Skin," concerning a 22-year-old medical student, "Stephen D.", who, after a night under the influence of amphetamines, cocaine, and PCP, wakes to find he has a tremendously heightened sense of smell. Many 1342adsyears later, Sacks would reveal that he was, in fact, Stephen D,showing how he incorporates his own life in his work.

This is a memorable book because of Sacks’ description of each patient. My favorite is the last chapter, “The Autistic Artist.” When Sacks tells his patient Jose to draw his pocket watch, one of the nurses tells Sacks, “He’s an idiot. Don’t even ask him. He don’t know what it is. He can’t tell time. He can’t even talk. They say he’s autistic, but he’s just an idiot.” Sacks doesn’t let this deter him and encourages Jose to draw the watch. To his surprise, Jose creates an incredibly accurate rendition. Another reason this is my favorite chapter is because it demonstrates that people who have been dismissed as “defective” can be good at something.