- Publisher: Knopf
- Year: 2007
- Pages: 400
I have read Oliver Sacks before. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat was a fascinating book, but it could get a bit dry at times, consisting as it did of short, informal case histories without much in the way of frame narrative or Bryson-esque exposition. I picked up Musicophilia both because I still like Sacks and his writing, but also because the book’s subject—music and music therapy—is very much a part of my life: my longtime girlfriend, Allison, is studying to become a music therapist, and while I’ve never had the disposition for such a line of work, I’ve always been fascinated by the potential neurological effects of it.
I rather enjoyed this book; I would say I enjoyed it even more than The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat; to start, I think Sacks writing has improved in 20+ years. Second, it seemed more focused, tied as it did around music rather than various and sundry neurological disorders common only by virtue of their disorderly nature.
Sacks covers a lot of different neurological disorders: the book ranges from people stricken with amusia, or have in some way are bereft of the ability to either enjoy music emotionally or even hear music as music, to those who suddenly gained an undying passion for music after being struck by lightning. These are all fascinating, and Sacks spends quite a bit of time talking introducing these case histories, and exploring the possible neurological reasons for these things; there is, too, a certain tawdry fascination with the broken—or sometimes enhanced—minds of other people: we can suddenly feel glad that a symphony doesn’t sound to us like the clanging of pots and pans.