Oliver Sacks The Island of the Colorblind

ISBN 13: 9780679451143

The Island of the Colorblind

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9780679451143: The Island of the Colorblind
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Oliver Sacks has always been fascinated by islands--their remoteness, their mystery, above all the unique forms of life they harbor. For him, islands conjure up equally the romance of Melville and Stevenson, the adventure of Magellan and Cook, and the scientific wonder of Darwin and Wallace.

Drawn to the tiny Pacific atoll of Pingelap by intriguing reports of an isolated community of islanders born totally color-blind, Sacks finds himself setting up a clinic in a one-room island dispensary, where he listens to these achromatopic islanders describe their colorless world in rich terms of pattern and tone, luminance and shadow. And on Guam, where he goes to investigate the puzzling neurodegenerative paralysis endemic there for a century, he becomes, for a brief time, an island neurologist, making house calls with his colleague John Steele, amid crowing cockerels, cycad jungles, and the remains of a colonial culture.

The islands reawaken Sacks' lifelong passion for botany--in particular, for the primitive cycad trees, whose existence dates back to the Paleozoic--and the cycads are the starting point for an intensely personal reflection on the meaning of islands, the dissemination of species, the genesis of disease, and the nature of deep geologic time. Out of an unexpected journey, Sacks has woven an unforgettable narrative which immerses us in the romance of island life, and shares his own compelling vision of the complexities of being human.

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Review:

In his books An Anthropologist on Mars and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Oliver Sacks details the lives of patients isolated by neurological disorders, shedding light on our common humanity and the ways in which we perceive the world around us. Now he looks at the effects of physical isolation in The Island of the Colorblind. On this journey, he carried with him the intellectual curiousity, kind understanding, and unique vision he has so consistently demonstrated.

Drawn to the Micronesian island of Pingelap by reports of a community of people born totally colorblind, Dr. Sacks set up a clinic in a one-room dispensary. There he listened to patients describe their colorless world in terms rich with pattern and tone, luminance and shadow. Then, in Guam, he investigated a puzzling neurodegenerative paralysis, making housecalls amid crowing cockerels, cycad jungles, and the remains of a colonial culture. The experience affords Sacks an opportunity to elaborate on such personal passions as botany and history and to explore the meaning of islands, the dissemination of species, the birth of disease, and the nature of deep geologic time.

From the Publisher:

"With aplomb, Sacks wears many hats -- cultural anthropologist, naturalist, explorer, ethnographer, neuroscientist -- as he delves into the islands' volcanic origins, their archeological wonders, their unique flora and fauna, their bloody colonial history under Spanish and German rule, their still active indigenous myths. As a travel writer, Sacks ranks with Paul Theroux and Bruce Chatwin. As an investigator of the mind's mysteries, he is in a class by himself."
-Publisher's Weekly

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Oliver Sacks
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