What are those scribbles?
Tuesday August 27th 2013, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Life

Oliver Sacks’ book “The Mind’s Eye” showed up on my doorstep about 5:00 pm and I’ve had a hard time putting it down.

One passage grabbed me that I immediately wanted to go show to Lene: it was about Charles Scribner, whose great-grandfather had founded the giant publishing house that he ran; his whole life was reading and writing.

Until he couldn’t. Sacks describes alexia sine agraphia at length, where the patient can write but can no longer read, not even what they just wrote. The hands know but the eyes cannot.

Audiobooks were just beginning to come to be, and Scribner had been resistant to the idea of them.

And then suddenly they were the only way he could read, and to his surprise, he could read just as fast that way and retain just as much of it. Since he could still write, he started dictating and having people read back to him so he could manage all the drafts and editing work that must be done and so he carried on, and presented Sacks with a copy of his first autobiography, written after his disease had struck.

Sacks doesn’t go into detail about Scribner’s business dealings beyond that, but, while sympathetic to what the guy had had to go through, I thought, what a way to crack open that whole market! Make the guy in charge need its services!

It’s probably fair to guess that Scribner, at the time he was stricken, would not have thought it an act of love within the loss. And yet–thinking of Lene with her juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, a childhood friend with young-onset Parkinson’s, the blind, cross-country driving trips fer cryin’ out loud, so many people, so many conditions–can you think of a faster way to get more books into all those hands in a form they can use?

My sense of the man from Sacks’ admiration for him is that he rejoiced in that, too.

4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Our trials can help us learn something we need to know.

Comment by Sherry in Idaho 08.28.13 @ 5:50 am

What a timely post. Thank you, Alison. I hope my local Barnes & Noble has a copy; I need a gift for a troubled friend TONIGHT.

Comment by Channon 08.28.13 @ 8:08 am

It really is amazing how our difficulties lead to profound insights!

Comment by Donald Meyer 08.28.13 @ 9:19 am

Thanks for mentioning this. I think I’ll love it.

Comment by RobinM 08.28.13 @ 5:59 pm

Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>