Oliver Sacks: Understanding the Self Through Narrative

Nicole Krauss reviews The River of Consciousness, a posthumous collection of Oliver Sacks’s essays
oliversacks
Oliver Sacks’s fountain pen

“[Oliver Sacks‘s] case studies illustrated how just as homeostasis, the maintenance of constant internal environment, is crucial to all organisms, so is a stable, cogent narrative of reality crucial to the mind and its construction of the self, such that even severely disordered brains will find ways of creating order.

This last point, with its vast implications, affected me powerfully when I read Sacks’s books for the first time while trying to write my first novel 16 years ago. I may have already understood that narrative is a primary human activity, as he points out in an essay in this collection, our way to make sense of the world. But what was revelatory to me as a young writer grappling with the idea of character, with how to describe both humanness and individuality, was the idea that, for the brain, the coherence that narrative forges is paramount to an accurate account of reality.”

— Nicola Krauss, The New York Times

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