Oliver Sacks' HALLUCINATIONS
Book Review by Dennis D. McDonald
The Audible download of this book became a slog after a while. I kept with it since it is very educational. Sacks’ last few books have been somewhat disappointing to me. This one seemed to ramble a bit too much. What it was lacking, I think, is a theory or model to tie together the different hallucinations discussed in the book. Recognizing the similarity and differences among the different hallucinations discussed in the different chapters is a bit of work, especially when you are listening and not easily able to page back and forth.
That said, the overall effect is to make the reader realize the commonness of different forms of hallucination and how many more people than expected may be experiencing the types of things discussed in the book. Sacks does weave science, literature, and observation together in a very entertaining way. I am left with a desire to read more in order to better understand some of the scientific issues he touches on.
My fundamental takeaway: paying attention to what you are paying attention to is something you should probably do more of. Asking yourself the question, “How do I know what I just heard/saw/tested/smelled is real?” seems like a good question to ask. Many things happen between the time something is sensed and the time you consciously become aware of it. Understanding more about such processes should help to answer the question, “How do we know what we know?” So in that respect this book is quite good and quite accessible at the same time, even though it seems a bit overlong.
The narrator of the book I downloaded from Audible is adequate. I didn’t enjoy the attempts at non-English accents which sounded amateurish at times.
Review copyright (c) 2012 by Dennis D. McDonald