The story of a brilliantly unconventional physician and writer, a man who has illuminated the many ways that the brain makes us human. With unbridled honesty and humor, Sacks writes about the passions that have driven his life—from motorcycles and weight lifting to neurology and poetry. He writes about his love affairs, both romantic and intellectual; his guilt over leaving his family to come to America; his bond with his schizophrenic brother; and the writers and scientists who have influenced his work.
Sacks’s empathy and intellectual curiosity, his delight in, as he calls it, 'joining particulars with generalities' and, especially, 'narratives with neuroscience' — have never been more evident than in his beautifully conceived new book, On The Move. This meta memoir, in which Sacks reconsiders aspects of his life and work that he’s written about in a dozen previous books, is remarkably candid and deeply affecting ... Sacks offers these revelations neither to titillate the reader nor to castigate himself but, rather, to give a fuller picture of himself as a person and, particularly, as a writer ... On The Move is not a portrait of an era, like, for example, Patti Smith’s Just Kids. It’s an old-fashioned memoir (what used to be called 'memoirs') in which journal entries, snippets of decades-old conversations, lost jobs, houses, and lovers rearrange themselves through recollection into a new and meaningful whole ... It’s a gift, a message from a writer who, though past 80 and mortally ill, retains the ethos of the handsome stud sitting astride a motorbike on its cover: Stay alive; keep moving.
It is a fascinating account — a sort of extended case study, really — of Sacks’ remarkably active, iconoclastic adulthood ... On the Move is filled with both wonder and wonderments ... The vivid self-portrait that emerges is of an immoderate risk taker with a brilliant 'wildly associative mind,' an enthusiast who regards 'all neurology, everything as a sort of adventure' ... The book is also filled with amusing and sometimes staggering accounts of goofs and gaffes that make one wonder how someone like Sacks would fare in today’s more rigid, competitive, and 'increasingly professionalized' environment ... On the Move takes a few extraneous detours, including long excerpts from youthful travel journals and too much on biologist Gerald Edelman’s Neural Darwinism, but it leaves us wanting more.
He does not play down the anger of some patients who have felt betrayed by his portrayals of them, nor does he deny his frustration with wary ones who resisted being depicted ... this memoir is more a history of his career than an analysis of it ... With On the Move, he has finally presented himself as he has presented others: as both fully vulnerable and an object of curiosity ... The most attractive and most problematic qualities of his writing turn out to be what are best and worst in him. His immersion in his patients’ brokenness is mirrored here in his acknowledgment of his own brokenness, his belated empathy for his younger self ... The primary mark of a good memoir is that it makes you nostalgic for experiences you never had, and Sacks captures the electrifying discoveries he made, especially those in his early career, with vivid, hard-edge prose ... Sacks assumes sometimes that we know more of his past than we do, and sometimes that we know less. Parts of this undertaking read dismayingly like the book one might write for one’s grandchildren ... His writing sometimes has a tinge of exposé, and there is no evidence that his clinical skills outrank those of other neurologists. To dismiss him on either of these fronts, however, misses the central fact that translating between those two arenas has great value of its own.