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My Travels with Oliver Sacks

By Lowell Handler
“L-L-Lowell, the English are the result of too much proper breeding,” said Oliver Sacks, neurologist and author, in December 1987. It was my first trip overseas. I was in my early thirties, Oliver in his mid-fifties, and I was working as his photographer.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but that sentence would stand not only as a joke about the English, but also as a partial explanation for how Oliver understood himself. He was shy and very polite, even restrained in many ways, the product of a medical and Jewish aristocracy.

Oliver’s mother was a surgeon, and his cousin was the Israeli diplomat Abba Eban.
When I met Oliver’s father that same year, the elder Dr. Sacks was ninety-two years old
and still practicing medicine at the house in London where Oliver was raised.
As Oliver explains in his last book published during his lifetime, On the Move,
he rebelled against this upbringing and arrived in San Francisco leather clad on a motorcycle.
He later moved to Los Angeles, where he was a resident in neurology at UCLA,
feasting on hallucinogens and the endorphin highs of weight-lifting.
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