|Happy holidays and greetings from the Oliver Sacks Foundation! It has been a remarkable year, one of sadness and joy, but above all, thankfulness for Dr. Sacks’s full and remarkable life.
His newest book, Gratitude, was published last month in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil, with other translations coming soon. It brings together the four inspiring essays written in the final months of his life, in which Dr. Sacks reflects on growing old, coming to terms with mortality, and—most importantly—being thankful for the gift of living one’s own life.
Meanwhile, On the Move continues to receive great reviews, and has appeared on a number of year-end “best of” lists. Together, these two books form an exquisite capstone to a truly extraordinary life.
We are grateful to you for sharing this journey with us, and this week, we will launch our #DaysOfGratitude campaign. Over the next two weeks we will feature previously unpublished photos of Dr. Sacks and other features on our social media channels, celebrating the life and work of Dr. Sacks and the impact it has had on various communities across the globe.
Wishing you and yours—and the entire planet—a peaceful, healthy, holiday season.
The Sacks Office
We are proud to announce the upcoming publication of a new book by Dr. Sacks: titled Gratitude, it brings together in one volume four gemlike essays written over the last two years of his life and first read by millions worldwide in The New York Times.
It begins with Dr. Sacks’s essay on turning 80, originally titled “The Joy of Old Age.” In it, he writes that embracing old age has brought “not a shrinking but an enlargement of mental life and perspective.” Rarely has an essay struck a nerve as this piece did; it was the #1 most e-mailed article in the Times for an entire month.
In January of 2015, only a few weeks after he completed the manuscript of his new memoir, On the Move, Dr. Sacks received the news that a rare, uveal form of melanoma had metastasized to his liver. Within days of the diagnosis, he began writing “My Own Life,” in which he expressed an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. “Above all,” he wrote, “I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.” This essay, too, went viral.
In July, he published “My Periodic Table,” in which he spoke of the sense of awe and eternity inspired by an expansive night sky filled with stars, and about his deep love for science and nature, for metals and elements (“little emblems of eternity”), and for lemurs.
Finally, Gratitude contains Sacks’s last essay, published only two weeks before his death. In “Sabbath,” he writes, “I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual, but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life — achieving a sense of peace within oneself.”
Together, these four extraordinary essays form an ode to the uniqueness of each human being and to gratitude for the gift of life.
Oliver Sacks died early this morning at his home in Greenwich Village, surrounded by his close friends and family. He was 82. He spent his final days doing what he loved—playing the piano, writing to friends, swimming, enjoying smoked salmon, and completing several articles. His final thoughts were of gratitude for a life well lived and the privilege of working with his patients at various hospitals and residences including the Little Sisters of the Poor in the Bronx and in Queens, New York.
Dr. Sacks was writing to the last. On August 14, he published an essay, “Sabbath,” in the New York Times. Two more articles are to be published this week, one in the New York Review of Books and one in the New Yorker.
Sacks also left several nearly completed books and a vast archive of correspondence, manuscripts, and journals. Before his death Sacks established the Oliver Sacks Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to increasing understanding of the human brain and mind through the power of narrative nonfiction and case histories.
The foundation’s goals include making Dr. Sacks’s published and yet-unpublished writings available to the broadest possible audience, preserving and digitizing materials related to his life and work and making them available for scholarly use, working to reduce the stigma of mental and neurological illness, and supporting a humane approach to neurology and psychiatry.
We at the Sacks office extend our love and sympathies to Dr. Sacks’s partner, Billy Hayes, and we are enormously grateful for the outpouring of love and support from Dr. Sacks’s readers and friends around the world.
With love from
Kate Edgar, Hallie Parker, Yolanda Rueda, Hailey Wojcik, and Kai Furbeck
Dr. Sacks has greatly enjoyed reading your letters, emails, and guestbook comments. Your stories, appreciations, memories (to say nothing of afghans, salmon, gefilte fish, artworks, photographs, and music) are what keep us all uplifted in the midst of his battle with cancer. We cannot thank you enough for this outpouring of support and affection. It is a daily reminder to the good doctor of his long, adventurous life, the high points of which have always been his communion and conversation with his readers and the privilege of seeing and helping his patients.
As he described in his recent New York Times piece, “My Periodic Table,” he recently visited some lemur friends in North Carolina, thanks to the extraordinary Duke University Lemur Center and its director, Anne Yoder. Below is a photo of Dr. Sacks with his new friend, Pia, a Coquerel’s sifaka.
We are proud to announce the establishment of the Oliver Sacks Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to increasing the public understanding of the human brain and mind through the power of narrative nonfiction and case histories, and to making the world a better place for those with neurological or psychiatric challenges. More info coming soon!
Finally, keep an eye out for Dr. Sacks’s newest article, “Sabbath,” now online at the New York Times and in the upcoming Sunday Times print edition.
Don’t miss this: Steve Silberman previews his book on the hidden history of autism, NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, in this riveting TED talk, just released.
Since June is independent bookseller month (we’re just kidding–every month is indie month!), we tip our hats to indies around the world (including our much-loved landmark neighborhood store, Three Lives in New York City).
But we have to hand it to Unity Books in Wellington, New Zealand. They asked their shop plumber to find a BMW for their display of On the Move, and came up with this vintage R75. Thank you, Tilly Lloyd and wonderful staff!
(Photo by Matt Bialostocki)
Finally, we are happy to welcome the first foreign translation of On the Move, from Rowohlt Verlag in Germany, who have published all of Dr. Sacks’s books over the years. Danke sehr, Rowohlt friends!
Thanks to Maria Popova at Brain Pickings for her thoughtful coverage of the book, including some vintage photos by the good doctor during his California days. She calls the book “a sublime memoir of love, lunacy, and a life well lived.” While Dr. Sacks is not doing any public events or interviews promoting the new book, he did sit down in front of the camera with filmmaker Ric Burns several months ago, discussing everything from his approach to writing to his early years at Oxford and even his experiences with amphetamines. Some short excerpts of those interviews are available on our YouTube channel, and a full-length documentary is in the works.
Dr. Sacks was recently featured in Radiolab Live’s event “Tell-Tale Hearts.” He has been a member of the Radiolab family since the beginning, and Jad and Robert did a lovely tribute to him. You can hear the whole episode here (or jump to 31:00 for the segment on OS).
Dr. Sacks is busily writing and enjoying life. Last month he published articles about the autonomic nervous system in the New York Review of Books; about Spalding Gray and brain injury in the New Yorker; and about the a cleaner world in the New Yorker’s Talk of the Town.Yes, this man can write anywhere, even on the roof of someone else’s car!
|Who is Dr. Oliver Sacks??
All of the above!
These stories and more in On the Move–on sale now–including 32 pages of photos. Please tell your friends!
The first advance copy of Dr. Sacks’s new book, On the Move, has just arrived from the printer!
Here is one happy author:
We thank you all deeply for the wonderful, moving cards and letters and emails which have poured in since Dr. Sacks wrote about his cancer diagnosis in the New York Times. In the current New York Review of Books, he writes about the aftermath of his cancer treatments and the notion of “feeling good” or “feeling ill.” Right now, we are pleased to report, he is feeling very good, and up to his usual swimming and writing and ferning.
But because Dr. Sacks will not be doing any book signings or interviews for the new book, we are relying entirely on YOU to help spread the word. On the Move is available for pre-order now, and will be officially published in the US, Canada, and the UK on April 28. Here is the UK cover:
PS: Special thanks to our web gurus at KPF Digital and Sheep in Disguise for this beautiful new look for our website. Visit our guestbook to find out what people are saying about Dr. Sacks, or to write to him yourself.
Yes, this is how Oliver Sacks rolled in 1961 (in Greenwich Village on his BMW).
When Oliver Sacks was twelve years old, a perceptive schoolmaster wrote in his report: “Sacks will go far, if he does not go too far.” It is now abundantly clear that Sacks has never stopped going. From its opening pages on his youthful obsession with motorcycles and speed, On the Move is infused with his restless energy. As he recounts his experiences as a young neurologist in the early 1960s, first in California, where he struggled with drug addiction and then in New York, where he discovered a long forgotten illness in the back wards of a chronic hospital, we see how his engagement with patients comes to define his life.
With unbridled honesty and humor, Sacks shows us that the same energy that drives his physical passions — weightlifting and swimming—also drives his cerebral passions. He writes about his love affairs, both romantic and intellectual; his guilt over leaving his family to come to America; his bond with his schizophrenic brother; and the writers and scientists—Thom Gunn, A.R. Luria, W.H. Auden, Gerald Edelman, and Francis Crick among them— who influenced him. On the Move is the story of a brilliantly unconventional physician and writer — and of the man who has illuminated the many ways that the brain makes us human.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be completely unable to communicate with others … for your entire life? This four-minute film is a must-see.
In Seeing Voices, Dr. Sacks writes about the many aspects of deaf culture and history, and the importance of language and communication for everyone.
Deaf people, especially those born deaf, have long been marginalized–at one time they were considered mentally inferior, unfit for marriage and parenthood (and even incapable of entering the “kingdom of heaven” because they couldn’t “hear” the voice of God). Even today they are often discouraged from communicating in their own, visual, sign languages, which are linguistically just as complex and expressive as any spoken language.
In the early 19th century, two very different men–Laurent Clerc, a (deaf) Frenchman and Thomas Gallaudet, a (hearing) American—bridged the formidable linguistic gap between them to bring sign language and deaf education to the United States. By the time of the Civil War, the campaign for deaf education had become the first civil rights movement in the U.S., and a model for the women’s suffrage and later movements.
Movements of the Soul is a riveting and inspirational new play about the friendship between Clerc and Gallaudet and their extraordinary enterprise. A groundbreaking piece of theatre, it is fully accessible to both deaf and hearing audiences, performed in ASL, English and French. The cast and crew include a talented company of both deaf and hearing artists including actors Lewis Merkin (“Spin City”, Broadway: Children of a Lesser God, West End: Equus), Frank Dattolo (National Theatre of the Deaf, Principal of Lexington School for the Deaf) , Alexandria Wailes (Broadway: Big River), and Jordan Lage (Broadway: Race, Speed the Plow, Inherit the Wind).
Dr. Sacks has joined the project as an Honorary Board Member, but we need your help not only to bring this play to an off-Broadway stage next spring but also to produce a documentary film which can reach even more people. Please help us spread the word by forwarding this newsletter to your friends.
And please check our fundraiser page at Indigogo and make a contribution, large or small. Thank you!