Sacks explores some of the most fundamental facets of human experience—how we see in three dimensions, how we represent the world internally when our eyes are closed, and the remarkable, unpredictable ways that our brains find new ways of perceiving that create worlds as complete and rich as the no-longer-visible world.
The Mind’s Eye is a collection of essays — some of which have already appeared in The New Yorker — but it has a remarkably graceful coherence of theme, tone and approach. Once again, Sacks explores our shared condition through a series of vivid characters ... Given to...un-self-consciously generous gestures, Sacks would seem to be the ideal doctor: observant but accepting, thorough but tender, training his full attention on one patient at a time. For the patient’s benefit and for ours, he illuminates every uncanny detail, brings out every excruciating irony ... The sufferers who write to Sacks receive a deeply empathetic response ... he is most engaged by the process of compensation, how people make up for what they have lost, wresting new possibilities from their newly imposed limits ... So rewarding are the compensations of Sacks’ patients, in fact, that we begin to feel as if the tragedies that befell them were not tragedies at all, but — as the self-help books say — opportunities for growth.
Oliver Sacks is a perfect antidote to the anaesthetic of familiarity. His writing turns brains and minds transparent ... The Mind's Eye, his 11th book, takes vision and visual imagination as the overarching theme, mixing case stories, essays and memoir ... there's much to admire. But I confess there were times when my fingers were racing my eyes in a footnote-stumbling scramble to get through to the end of certain chapters. The case histories were the problem. I found some of them overstuffed, both with detail and moral sentiment. There's only so much compassion a man can take, only so much astonishment at human resilience. I began to yearn for a shift of register, for failure and despair, for a patient who disappoints or defeats Dr Sacks. But no, there is never anything, ultimately, but uplift ... The Mind's Eye would have been a disappointment had it looked no further for clinical material. But there's a redeeming fifth case: Oliver Sacks. And when the author steps into the clinical spotlight the book comes to life.
Sacks's stories are drawn from case histories, textbooks and sympathetically observed encounters with patients ... But the substance of the book soon turns on Sacks himself and the extraordinary impact on his own perception of the world once he discovers that he has ocular melanoma ... The Mind's Eye is an eye-opener. Sacks's patients recognise what is happening to them, and find ways to cope ... His stories deliver both clinical understanding and a serving of hope. The victories are small, but they are victories all the same. More profoundly, such stories remind us that our brains are all we have.