LITERATURE

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The Independent Culture
I once met a man, let's call him M, whose behaviour was normal except in one respect. He used to try to tell stories he had read in books by Dr Oliver Sacks. However he would always end up getting them confused, so that, for example, he would star t talking about a surgeon with Tourette's syndrome (who only stopped convulsively shaking when he performed intricate surgery), and end up saying that the surgeon mistook his scalpel for his wife.

We may laugh, but we should feel pity for such a person. There is something about the diversity of Sacks's extraordinary accounts, from Awakenings through to his most recent collection, An Anthropologist on Mars, that makes them easy to confuse. The startling experiences of his patients offer insights into the everyday workings of the human mind. Sacks's writing has made the man himself a conundrum. Is he doctor or storyteller?

On Tuesday he lectures at the Royal Geographical Society. He has even squeezed in a signing session at Waterstone's in his old neighbourhood, Hampstead. But you shouldn't read much into that. One for the record, so to speak.

Oliver Sacks is at Waterstone's, Hampstead NW3 (071-794 1098) Mon 7pm. Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, SW7 Tue 1 2.45pm (071-792 9512) £20

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