September 26, 2007


Another article of Oliver Sack's recently appeared in the September 24, 2007 New Yorker. In the form of an example driven narrative, it relays the story of Clive Wearing, a musician and musicologist, who became amnestic following a bout of encephalitis which damaged his medial temporal lobes and then some. The article doesn't clearly delineate the areas involved. His life after the illnes has been documented in a documentary and memoir by his wife.

His amnesia is characterized as the inability to form new memories as well as to remember parts of his past. He lives persistently in the present. There is no past and thereby an isolated present. His journal records this disconcerting reality as he repeatedly writes such statements as "I am conscious" and "This time I am properly awake," only to contradict himself a line later. This example of his condition is one of the more striking relayed in the article.

Clive's life, on the edge of the abyss or in the abyss, the metaphor used in the article which lends it its title, reveals how important memory is to making us fully human and conscious.

The idea of joking disease or Witzelsucht was presented in the article. This results from damage to the frontal lobes.

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