Trompe l’Oeil, my third novel, deals with the world of illusion and raises questions about what’s real, what’s illusion and how to tell the difference. When science poses similar puzzles, the answers aren’t simple either, as Oliver Sacks reveals in his new book, Hallucinations. (“Review of Reviews: Books” The Week, 11/12 pg. 19) The author’s’ earlier best seller, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, drew attention to the brain functions of people with unusual disorders, like the inability to form new memories or to sense the relationship of one body part to another. His new book argues that hallucinations are more common than people imagine, being either harmless or troubling.
As to the latter, one woman he writes about kept seeing her son being murdered. Another man couldn’t rid himself of the smell of fish. Sacks also notes that the Charles Bonne syndrome produces hallucinations in the blind. Joan of Arc and Fydor Dostoyesky, he speculates, may have suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy which explains their visions.
Of course some hallucinations are self-induced through pharmacology or opiates of choice. Anyone living in the 1960’s will remember the LSD chant, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.
People may laugh at some of the more bizarre illusions but Sacks takes them all seriously. One day, he hopes they might provide clues to the brain’s organization.
Whether he breaks the brain code or not only time will tell. In the meantime, I’m happy that the gnome in my garden may put in an appearance to others.
(Courtesy of http://www.gardenideaimage.co.uk)