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Seeing Other Solutions

Interview with Oliver Sacks, author of
"The Mind's Eye"

Q. In addition to the eye surgery, you've recently had a knee replacement and spinal surgery.

A. Recovery was slow. For four months, I couldn't sit down. And during those four months, I had a lot of pain. The only thing that took my mind off it was writing. I did that standing up. I couldn't sit. So I wrote the book in the old-fashioned way, rather like the Victorians with their standing desks.

Q. Were these age-related issues?

A. I have to admit I was a competitive weightlifter. At one time I had a California record for lifting with deep knee bends: I did that with 600 pounds. You may pay for it years later with damage to the soft tissue. So I can't attribute all of this to age. Deafness and cataracts are age-related. And I sometimes have difficulty thinking of proper names. I think, and I certainly hope, that I'm basically intact mentally.

Q. You're still teaching, still physically active.

A. My father lived and worked as a doctor till his 95th year. I love and enjoy work and activity, and I get demoralized if I can't.

Q. What's the status of your eye now?

A. About a year ago, I had a hemorrhage. I had five surgical attempts this summer to clear the eye. They all worked, but within three days, the eye had bled again. They haven't found the culprit. It's probably little capillaries — maybe radiation damage to the retina. If I get vision back in that eye, well and good. I hope I do.

Q. Can you still drive?

A. I haven't driven. I've wondered about it. I will probably start out in a country lane. If I end up in a ditch, that's not too bad.

Julia M. Klein is a cultural reporter and critic in Philadelphia and a contributing editor at the Columbia Journalism Review.

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