- Publisher: Random House Inc
- Format: Hardback | 326 pages
- Dimensions: 140mm x 211mm x 38mm | 340g
- Publication date: 6 November 2012
- Publication City/Country: New York
- ISBN 10: 0307957241
- ISBN 13: 9780307957245
- Sales rank: 152,439
Have you ever seen something that wasn't really there? Heard someone call your name in an empty house? Sensed someone following you and turned around to find nothing? Hallucinations don't belong wholly to the insane. Much more commonly, they are linked to sensory deprivation, intoxication, illness, or injury. People with migraines may see shimmering arcs of light or tiny, Lilliputian figures of animals and people. People with failing eyesight, paradoxically, may become immersed in a hallucinatory visual world. Hallucinations can be brought on by a simple fever or even the act of waking or falling asleep, when people have visions ranging from luminous blobs of color to beautifully detailed faces or terrifying ogres. Those who are bereaved may receive comforting "visits" from the departed. In some conditions, hallucinations can lead to religious epiphanies or even the feeling of leaving one's own body. Humans have always sought such life-changing visions, and for thousands of years have used hallucinogenic compounds to achieve them. As a young doctor in California in the 1960s, Oliver Sacks had both a personal and a professional interest in psychedelics. These, along with his early migraine experiences, launched a lifelong investigation into the varieties of hallucinatory experience. Here, with his usual elegance, curiosity, and compassion, Dr. Sacks weaves together stories of his patients and of his own mind-altering experiences to illuminate what hallucinations tell us about the organization and structure of our brains, how they have influenced every culture's folklore and art, and why the potential for hallucination is present in us all, a vital part of the human condition.
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OLIVER SACKS is a professor of neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and the author of many books, including "Musicophilia, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, "and" Awakenings" (which inspired the Oscar-nominated film).
"Although the descriptions of hallucinations are interesting in their own right, what gives real substance to the book on two levels are Sacks's explanations of the causes of various hallucinatory phenomena and his notes on the history of the science, the scientists, and the physicians who have sought to explain these phenomena. Overall, Sacks does a commendable job of explaining the workings of the brain in an accessible manner....That said, even the most erudite of readers is likely to learn something new." -American Psychological Association "Absorbing...Dr. Sacks provides what he calls a kind of 'natural history or anthology of hallucinations' drawn from his patients' experiences, his own observations and from literature on the subject...Sacks conjures these apparitions in language that has an easy, tactile magic. As he's done in so many of his earlier books, like "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" and" An Anthropologist on Mars," he uses his medical knowledge to illuminate the complexities of the human brain and the mysteries of the human mind. At the same time, his compassion for his patients and his own philosophical outlook turn what might have been clinical case studies into humanely written short stories, animated as much by an intuitive appreciation of the human condition as by scientific understanding." -Michiko Kakutani, "The New York Times " "Effective--largely because Sacks never turns exploitative, instead sketching out each illness with compassion and thoughtful prose. A riveting look inside the human brain and its quirks." -Kirkus "Fascinating...Writing with his trademark mix of evocative description, probing curiosity, and warm empathy, Sacks once again draws back the curtain on the mind's improbable workings." -"Publishers Weekly" "Sacks' best-selling nonfiction stories based on his practice of clinical neurology constitute one shining reason for thinking that we're living in a golden age of medical writing...