The author Lawrence Weschler began spending time with Oliver Sacks in the early 1980s, when he set out to profile the neurologist forThe New Yorker. For personal reasons, Sacks asked Weschler to abandon the profile, a request to which Weschler acceded. The two remained close friends, however, across the next thirty years and then, just as Sacks was dying, he urged Weschler to take up the project once again. This book is the result of that entreaty.
...[a] fascinating account ... Weschler...serves up a potpourri of conversations, diary entries, interviews, letters and reportage to paint a vibrant portrait of his friend's fully engaged, at times frenetic, life. Though it inevitably covers some of the same ground as Sacks's own 2015 memoir...this blend of journalistic objectivity and subjective engagement in Sacks's daily life enlarges and complements the neurologist's self-portrait ... But for all Weschler's deep affection for Sacks, he doesn't shy away from the controversies that at times swirled around his subject's life and work ... As Lawrence Weschler concedes, with obvious regret, someday a person who 'will have to be a lot younger than I am now' is going to produce a full-length biography of Oliver Sacks. In doing so, that writer will be in Weschler's debt for the wealth of valuable source material his book provides.
Weschler’s...book about neurologist Oliver Sacks...which began as a prospective profile for the New Yorker, isn’t a standard biography, but instead a memoir of what his subject told him about his life, work, and his wide-ranging interests over the several-years-long course of Weschler’s labor on the profile and the development of a friendship that ended only with Sacks’ death ... Sacks was and is the quintessence of fascinating.
Compellingly, Weschler intertwines Sacks’s searching empathy with his sheer strangeness ... By the time Weschler writes of Sacks’s death, I found myself tearing up at the loss of this inspired creature. Yet I read And How Are You, Dr. Sacks? with an unshakable sense of missed opportunity. The feeling that the great majority of Weschler’s material has been rendered before — and with more artistic grace — by Sacks himself, in his autobiographies and accounts of treating his patients, could have been mitigated had Weschler chosen to examine topics that Sacks barely touches ... Weschler would have needed to gaze inward, possibly to expose the kind of raw longing that runs throughout much of Sacks’s writing ... Instead, Weschler keeps himself forever in check, quoting at length, deferentially, doggedly, from interview after interview, and relegating himself to an almost forgettable role ... an artful biography, as singular as Sacks’s own writing, lies beyond these reverent pages.