Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Seeing Voices (Oliver Sacks)

When I was about 13, I decided that I was going to learn sign language. I think the impetus was that someone in my family had found an old "Teach Yourself Sign Language" book, and I thought if there's a book, then surely I should learn the language. I made it roughly one-third of the way through the first chapter, and really just learned the alphabet (which I still remember most of today).

I'm a big fan of Oliver Sack's writing: He has the perfect balance of scientific fact and narrative that makes his books interesting and accessible. I highly recommend the books of his I've read in the past (Anthropologist on Mars, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and his memoir Uncle Tungsten, which signals how much times have changed, given the kinds and amounts of dangerous chemicals and materials Sacks had accessible as a kid).

Seeing Voices is divided into three parts, none of which really capture the beauty of Sack's writing. The first part began as a book review and follows much of the history of the deaf. The middle part deals more with scientific data, which is what I found most interesting, and especially explores the lives of the congenitally deaf. The section does sometimes capture the best part of Sack's writing but then quickly moves on. And the third part, well, I didn't quite make it to the third part. I meant to, but the book was due and on hold, so I couldn't renew it. Such is the life of a library book sometimes.

If you haven't read Oliver Sacks, you definitely should (see my list above). He's always almost interesting and insightful.

Next book up: Game Time: A Baseball Companion by Roger Angell

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