On the Move: A Life

Oliv­er Sacks
  • Review
By – August 30, 2015

Oliv­er Sacks was equal­ly at home in the wards of chron­ic dis­ease hos­pi­tals as he was in the esteemed and hal­lowed halls of Oxford or rid­ing across the Unit­ed States with leather bik­ers. Per­haps it is this effort­less abil­i­ty to relate to such a wide vari­ety of peo­ple and milieux that has allowed him to gar­ner respect and almost cult-like sta­tus among the intel­li­gentsia and the com­mon man alike. From Hol­ly­wood actors — like the late Robin Williams, who played Sacks in the award-win­ning film Awak­en­ing—to Nobel Prize win­ners, Sacks’ chameleon – like ease has gar­nered him both respect and admiration. 

Revered as a physi­cian, beloved by fam­i­ly and friends, Sacks was at heart a sto­ry­teller, and a mas­ter­ful one at that. In his bril­liant auto­bi­og­ra­phy On the Move, Sacks takes the read­er on a vivid and sto­ried jour­ney from South Lon­don, where he grew up in a home of bril­liant physi­cians, to his sex­u­al awak­en­ing in repressed post­war Eng­land to his med­ical and pro­fes­sion­al train­ing to his rise to lit­er­ary promi­nence. In reveal­ing his own life sto­ry, Sacks shows us that his auto­bi­og­ra­phy is equal­ly as enthralling as those of his patients, whose sto­ries he cap­tured in Awak­en­ings and Hal­lu­ci­na­tions.

On the Move is not just the auto­bi­og­ra­phy of a bril­liant and renowned neu­rol­o­gist, it is an hon­est, no-holds-barred account of a gay man grow­ing up in a repressed and dis­ap­prov­ing world, dis­play­ing sen­si­tiv­i­ty and an all-encom­pass­ing empa­thy toward each of his patients — evi­denced by his sleep­ing quar­ters in a tiny apart­ment adja­cent to Beth Abra­ham hos­pi­tal, arranged so that he could be acces­si­ble at all hours of the night to mon­i­tor the treat­ment and respons­es of those in his care. Dr. Sacks com­bines fas­ci­nat­ing life and deep inter­est in the human con­di­tion with the writ­ing acu­men to ade­quate­ly describe it. On the Move is his fire­side chat, an adven­ture of the mind and spir­it to match his life’s travels.

Relat­ed Content:


Read an excerpt from On the Move here.

Paula Lubin is a human­i­ties teacher at the North Shore Hebrew Acad­e­my Mid­dle School. She has writ­ten for a vari­ety of pub­li­ca­tions, most recent­ly the New York Health­care Law Update.

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