Oliver Sacks– 1933 – 2015; RIP

Tom McIntyre just let me know that Oliver Sacks has died at 82, from a recurrence of his melanoma. I wrote back, instantly:

“A great man; a Martian, as he characterized his friend Temple Grandin, but a GREAT Martian, and great writer- scientist. I have read nearly all his books, picking up the autobiography when he announced his impending death in the NYRB, and his reaction:” I must write another book!”*

“In it, I learned that he was a power lifter who could jerk 375 pounds (something i know a bit about personally); a biker, when that culture merged into gay culture in pre-  AIDS California; gay, but celibate 30 or more years,  for private reasons; and a sometime speed freak. He handled all this with grace and a gentle sense of amusement. Could he have had a touch of Asperger’s? He was “face blind”, but loved music. He swam like a  porpoise…

“Given friends like Jonathan Miller and Tom Stoppard, I expect he was edge of conservative in TODAY’s politics— old Establishment Jewish liberal was probably what he would prefer. As you said, not an ideologue…

“I have found many other fans lately— my neurologist AND her Bronx- bred resident for instance; Tom Quinn’s wfe Jeri, and more remarkably Tom, who tends to disapprove of gay people. The Bronx gal now thinks I am civilized again- I had lost points when Sarah (neuro) told her my implant had to go in my LEFT shoulder because “… he shoots so much!”

“It’s not particularly apropos but I have taken to using this quote whenever someone I consider grand and irreplaceable dies; Kipling, in the person of Mowgli, from “Red Dog”: “Howl, dogs! A WOLF has died tonight!”

“Them’s my thoughts…”

* ANOTHER great book by a dying person: Clive James’ last views on everything, an unlikely celebration: Latest Readings

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