I knew nothing about Dr. Sacks before I read this book other than the fact that he was a prolific writer. Now I know much, much more.
I loved that Dr. Sacks didn’t hesitate to jump into the nitty gritty details of his life. One line that really stuck out to me: “It was just as well that I had no foreknowledge of the future for after that sweet birthday fling I was to have no sex for the next thirty-five years.” pg 203 Boom. It’s the last line of a chapter section, he neither explains it nor dwells on it. How extraordinary.
I also liked reading about the dramatic parts of his life like his early drug addiction, love of motorcycling, wild nights at the Y, and stint with the American truckers. I found myself dragging through his reminiscing about research or intellectual friends. I think the problem is that I don’t find the inner workings of the mind nearly as fascinating as he did.
Dr. Sacks lists his research pursuits in page after page of case studies, reading, and memories and it wasn’t very fun to slog through. I would probably enjoy the books that he wrote during these times more than this one that was about the writing of them. Another problem, sometimes during the narration, he moves backwards and forwards in time without noting that he is doing so other than writing the date. That was frustrating for me.
Despite some slow portions, Dr. Sacks does have some very beautiful writing in On the Move. Take this passage, where he’s thinking about why he lived so many years of his life on the East coast of the US when he really loved the West coast: “I suspect my nostalgia may be not only for the place itself but for youth, and a very different time, and being in love, and being able to say, “The future is before me.” pg 131
He also struck a chord with me in this line where he’s talking about his love of journaling: “My journals are not written for others, nor do I usually look at them myself, but they are a special, indispensable form of talking to myself.” pg 383 I feel that way too. I pour myself out on written pages in ways that I feel unable to do in the rest of my life through conversations or whatever else.
Dr. Sacks was extraordinarily bright, interested in life and all of its internal mechanisms. At least, after reading this memoir, one can say that he lived fully and well.
I received a free copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads program. Thanks for reading!