Hallucinations has gone off to the printers, and will be published on November 6! Here’s what the jacket looks like, thanks to designer Hailey Wojcik:
Dr. Sacks just returned from Stockholm, where he took part in some experiments on altered body image with Henrik Ehrsson’s lab at the Karolinska Institute. You’ll be able to read about his experiences with a third arm and the “Barbie doll illusion” in the final chapter of Hallucinations.
Dr. Sacks also headed to Hammarby, the home and gardens of the great eighteenth-century botanist and zoologist Carl Linnaeus. (Yes, he invented the binomial system of classification for animals and plants that we still use.) Spring had just come to Uppsala, and the gardens were in full flower. Jesper Kårehad, the resident botanist, showed him around:
Here is Linnaeus’s house, and the beautiful St. Lucy’s cherry, Prunus mahaleb, he planted two and a half centuries ago:
Inside the house is Linnaeus’s study, still wallpapered floor to ceiling with botanical illustrations from his time.
Sweden is rich in chemical heritage, too. A few years ago, Dr. Sacks visited the town of Köping and the pharmacy of Carl Wilhelm Scheele, who discovered oxygen. He also made a pilgrimage to the tiny village of Ytterby, whose mine gave its name to no less than four elements: erbium, terbium, yttrium, and ytterbium.
This week, something extraordinary happened. Director Michael Rossato-Bennett posted a clip from his new documentary, “Alive Inside,” on YouTube. Over the next couple of hours, he watched the number of views climb from 300 to three hundred thousand. As of this writing, five days later, over three million people have watched it. It’s been covered by USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, ABC News, the LA Times, the Guardian, and news organizations in Brazil, Canada, and Pakistan. And the film hasn’t even premiered yet.
What’s attracting all this attention? Music therapy, and the extraordinary effect it has on a 94-year-old called Henry. Without music, Henry is uncommunicative and cannot recognize his own daughter. With music, he comes alive, reminiscing about his favorite Cab Calloway performances. His eyes glow, he speaks with energy and passion.
If you haven’t seen this clip, you can find it here. Pass it along!
The full documentary, which premieres next week at the Rubin Museum in New York, is about a wonderful project devoted to improving the lives of elderly people with various conditions—especially those, like Henry, with dementia, as well as people with cancer, depression, paralysis, and a host of other conditions. The idea couldn’t be simpler: load an iPod with music that has meaning for the individual, so they can access that music to enliven, engage, and uplift.
You can help transform the life of someone like Henry by donating an old or new iPod. For more information, go to the Music and Memory website. Learn how to pick the right music and set up an iPod for your loved one, or how to bring this program to your neighbors.
As Dr. Sacks has written in Musicophilia, music can be more therapeutic than any medication. Music, he says,”brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.”
Music is inexpensive, easily available, and (unlike drugs) it has no side effects! Let’s keep this going—tell a friend, and ask them to spread the word, too.
Spring is on the way, and it’s time to take a journey to the lovely warm climes of Oaxaca, Mexico! (We pronounce it “Wah-HAH-ka.”)
That’s Dr. Sacks on the cover, writing in his journal in the shade of a nopal cactus. He may be writing about the history of chocolate or chili peppers, his ferny childhood at Kew Gardens, the gentle capybara, the violent colonization of Mexico, or its glorious pre-Conquest architecture. Or perhaps he is musing on botanical hallucinogens or the strange habits of fern devotees and birders scouting for new species.
As the New York Times said of this book, “Sacks’s boundless curiosity is always a reward.” (Did we mention that this book could completely solve your Mother’s Day shopping duties?)
We hope you love your local librarians as much as we do. As a salute to libraries large and small, we will donate a hardcover copy of Oaxaca Journal to the first ten libraries we hear from (please send in a request on library letterhead via email—sorry, we can only send within the United States).
Happy Year of the Dragon! It seems like an auspicious time to announce that Dr. Sacks’s next book, HALLUCINATIONS, is scheduled for publication in the fall of 2012. Stay tuned for updates, and a sneak peek or two!
We are excited also to announce the publication of Writer, M.D.: The Best Contemporary Fiction and Nonfiction by Doctors. This collection includes Dr. Sacks’s “The Lost Mariner,” along with pieces by many of our favorite writers: Pauline Chen, Atul Gawande, Leah Kaminsky, Perri Klass, Robert Jay Lifton, Danielle Ofri, Abraham Verghese, and others. A percentage of proceeds from sales of the book will be donated to the Starlight Children’s Foundation.
Jerome Groopman opens the book beautifully when he writes: “A physician works at the border between science and the soul.”
Speaking of science, many of us are thinking at this time of year about improving our diet and exercise habits. If you have read The Island of the Colorblind, you might be interested in this fascinating follow-up to the “bat” hypothesis, originally proposed in 2002 by Paul Cox and Oliver Sacks. The plot continues to thicken… and the science is not yet definitive. But in the meantime, you may want to think twice about the health effects of “blue-green algae” (really cyanobacteria) drinks and “superfoods.”
Wishing you all a healthy, happy Year of the Dragon, with much good reading, great music, and the company of friends and family.
Thanksgiving is here, and we are thankful for your support, your comments, and your emails and letters. In particular, as Dr. Sacks finishes up the manuscript for his book on hallucinations, we are very grateful to all who have written to him about their own experiences with hallucinations (and everything else). Thank you!!
We are also grateful for the power of music. Last week, ABC’s Nightline aired this special on Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s incredible progress using melodic intonation therapy to regain speech after a bullet passed through the left side of her brain, causing her to lose expressive speech. Her journey has been deeply inspiring, and we’d like to take this opportunity to salute music therapists, speech therapists, occupational and physical therapists, too. These dedicated professionals know all about brain plasticity and are devoted to helping the rest of us utilize it. Saludos!
We give thanks, always, for books and book people. What’s Dr. Sacks reading these days? He has been returning to a perennial favorite, William James’s Principles of Psychology (his edition is so well-thumbed its cover has long since worn away). He has been excited by a new book on dolphin intelligence–biologist Diana Reiss’s The Dolphin in the Mirror, and one on the conquest of Mount Everest–Wade Davis’s Into the Silence. And he is looking forward to reading Eugenia Bone’s Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms—not only to learn more about hallucinations, but because mushrooms are some of the coolest and most overlooked members of the botanical world (well, at least they used to be plants, before scientists figured out that they weren’t…).
In addition to the e-books and audiobooks mentioned in our last newsletter, we thought you’d like to know that The Music Never Stopped, the inspiring movie based on a chapter from An Anthropologist on Mars, is available now on DVD. It tells the story of a young man lost in the depths of amnesia and reunited with his father by the power of music. The DVD features extras including an interview with Dr. Sacks and the actors, commentary by director Jim Kohlberg, and deleted scenes. The great soundtrack for the film (including Bob Dylan, Crosby Stills & Nash, and previously unreleased Grateful Dead tracks) is also available by download or CD.
“Let there be songs to fill the air!”