oct 31 issue: in defense of Oliver Sacks
In the case of Patricia H. (I think of him as more like Freud than Barnum, in his style and his habit of identification with the patients and his sense of humor) he comes right out and says "She was lucky [ . . . ] that her daughters fought so hard from the beginning to keep her engaged and active, and were able to afford extra aides and therapists . . " (53) This in a long string of privileges Patricia H. enjoyed. Uncharacteristic of the New Yorker to be so blunt about money, and uncharacteristic of someone within health science to be so blunt too. Aphasia is different if you're rich.
But I think the hidden modernist agenda of this issue of the New Yorker is actually here, in Sack's fascination with aphasia. This expressive speechlessness is explored as a medical condition here, and as a literary convention, in Packard's characterization of the "terse eloquence" (82) of Hemingway, and Gopnik's essay on Homer and his "richly laconic"* aesthetic. We'll call it silent modernism. Granted, that might mean that Sacks (or the New Yorker) does make these disabled figures exotic, but as long as we can watch it happen from a critical position . . . Sacks work perhaps exposes more than it obscures.
Categories: newyorker, books, blindness,
Sensory Experiences: literary, aural, kinesthetic, spatial,