Inside the life and work of Oliver Sacks, whose newest book is Hallucinations:

“He has been in psychoanalysis, continuously and with the same Freudian interlocutor, for 46 years—remarkable for a materialist neurologist. ‘We were both young men, and now we’re old men. There’s a longitudinal study for you,’ he says. The two remain on formal terms: ‘He’s still Dr. Shengold, and I am still Dr. Sacks,’ he says. ‘I think that a patient can become a friend, but that one shouldn’t be a doctor to a friend—there is a distance, which paradoxically allows closeness, as I feel with my own patients.’”

“Sacks says his shyness simply ‘doesn’t occur’ in those interactions, which may be one reason he is so good with his patients and another reason he so loves them. In his work as a physician, the social landscape is unusually even-planed, for him and for them, and he has an uncanny ability to put his patients at ease—with sustained attention; curiosity and empathy; and a physician’s bag, stuffed with balls, a reflex hammer, and magazines, that could serve a clown. ‘Among other things, I’m a good and sometimes involuntary imitator,’ Sacks says a little mischievously.”