Oliver Sacks (1933–2015) was a physician and the author of over ten books, the most recent of which is On the Move: A Life.

IN THE REVIEW

Urge

Detail of a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci, circa 1510–1511
Walter B., an affable, outgoing man of forty-nine, came to see me in 2006. As a teenager, following a head injury, he had developed epileptic seizures—these first took the form of attacks of déjà vu that might occur dozens of times a day. Sometimes he would hear music that no one else could hear. He had no idea what was happening to him and, fearing ridicule or worse, kept his strange experiences to himself.

A General Feeling of Disorder

Newcastle Beach, New South Wales, Australia, 2000; photograph by Trent Parke
On Monday, February 16, I could say I felt well, in my usual state of health—at least such health and energy as a fairly active eighty-one-year-old can hope to enjoy—and this despite learning, a month earlier, that much of my liver was occupied by metastatic cancer.

The Mental Life of Plants and Worms, Among Others

The Large Flowering Sensitive Plant, whose ‘plant electricity,’ Oliver Sacks writes, ‘moves slowly...as one can see by watching the leaflets...closing one by one along a leaf that is touched.’ Illustration from Robert John Thornton’s The Temple of Flora (1799–1807), published in a new edition by Taschen.

The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms: with Observations on Their Habits

by Charles Darwin

Jelly-Fish, Star-Fish, and Sea-Urchins: Being a Research on Primitive Nervous Systems

by George John Romanes
We all distinguish between plants and animals. We understand that plants, in general, are immobile, rooted in the ground; they spread their green leaves to the heavens and feed on sunlight and soil. We understand that animals, in contrast, are mobile, moving from place to place, foraging or hunting for food; they have easily recognized behaviors of various sorts. Plants and animals have evolved along two profoundly different paths (fungi have yet another), and they are wholly different in their forms and modes of life. And yet, Darwin insisted, they were closer than one might think.

Speak, Memory

Heinrich Kühn: Hans with Bureau, 1905; from Heinrich Kühn: The Perfect Photograph, the catalog of a recent exhibition organized by the Albertina, Vienna. Now out of print, it was edited by Monika Faber and Astrid Mahler and published by Hatje Cantz.
There is, it seems, no mechanism in the mind or the brain for ensuring the truth, or at least the veridical character, of our recollections. We have no direct access to historical truth, and what we feel or assert to be true depends as much on our imagination as our senses. There is no way by which the events of the world can be directly transmitted or recorded in our brains; they are experienced and constructed in a highly subjective way, which is different in every individual to begin with, and differently reinterpreted or reexperienced whenever they are recollected.

The Lost Virtues of the Asylum

We tend to think of mental hospitals as snake pits, hells of chaos and misery, squalor and brutality. Most of them, now, are shuttered and abandoned—and we think with a shiver of the terror of those who once found themselves confined in such places. So it is salutary to hear …