I ran into a college professor at a bar a few years after graduation (and a few beers after sobriety) who made reference to something I said having been brilliant. I demurred “I bet you say that to all the girls,” but she insisted “no, no, you had a reputation for being brilliant. Reckless, but brilliant.”
I’ve never been prouder of a compliment, precisely because I know it wasn’t entirely intended as such. I want that line on my tombstone.
I bring it up because a teacher noted of a young Oliver Sacks that he “will go far, if he does not go too far,” and it was a legitimate surprise how true that seems to be from his memoir.
Havibg read much of his other work, it was a surprise to see that in his youth, the neuroscience giant experimented with drugs, was a competitive weightlifter, and hung out with motorcycle gangs. This is not what one would expect of the author of clinical narratives collected in The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, until Sacks reveals he was one of the cases in that very book, hidden under a pseudonym as a medical student experiencing the effects of recreational drugs. This is not a judgement, merely astonishing, and a side of Sacks I wouldn’t have guessed at.
The book has an interesting subject in its autobiographer, but even if it didn’t, I’ll read Sacks expounding on any damn thing. Five stars from a biased reviewer.
Also: dayyyyyumn, young Oliver Sacks can GET IT. look at that man! Look at him. I’m used to thinking of him as Santa Robin Williams Claus, but HI THERE beefcake Dr. Sacks. Yes Please with a side of wow.