The Man Who Mistook his Life for a Notebook
A cartoonist confesses to an Oliver Sacks obsession that has him flexing his mental muscles in way he never thought possible
By Alan King
I have a confession to make. I’ve read just about every word Oliver Sacks ever wrote and, God knows, the man wrote a lot. Yes, I know it sounds like an unhealthy interest in medical literature — borderline OCD. But it’s not like I’ve read all of Sherwin Nolan or Jerome Groopman or Atul Gawande — just Sacks. I read him endlessly, page after fascinating page. You could think of it as a mental disorder or a ‘cerebral deficit’ if you like. My doctor certainly does. In fact he has a name for it: florid non-sackistic verbo-dysplasia. It’s a rare, somewhat disabling affliction. There are maybe 50 people on the planet who have it and sufferers typically live only on beautiful, faraway tropical islands, hilltop Tuscan villages or have been institutionalized for decades without ever seeing the outside world. I’m one ...
Messin’ with the Texan
Mob Rule: Part 32
Jack drinks in acres of bluebells and the sight of expansive ranch lands as he chows down with Lyndon and Ladybird
By John Armstrong
The trip from Kansas to meet Lyndon in Texas was a long, dusty one. We’d done Missouri just before and I had to admire the way Sydney’s staff had finessed the speech writing. A Missourian who heard me talk in St. Louis, Independence, or Joplin would have had heart stoppage if he’d been at the fundraiser a few nights later in Kansas. Missouri was a border state during the Civil War, never actually seceding but not quite supporting the federals either, and Missourians fought on both sides of the war or sat it out as best they could, as their consciences dictated. I danced around the state’s complex allegiances as much as the writers could manage, but in Kansas, firmly in the union, we made no bones about glorifying their forefather’s brave stand for truth, liberty, and freedom in the Great Conflict and exalting the ...
Searching for the legacy of Al Purdy
When film critic Brian D. Johnson retired, he became a filmmaker himself. His first project: a documentary about the difficult, brilliant (and strangely forgotten) Canadian poet
By Jay Stone
TORONTO — “You can argue whether he was our greatest poet, but certainly he was our most Canadian poet. No one wrote about the land the way that he did. If the Group of Seven was a bar band, they might sound like Al Purdy.” It’s a warm September afternoon and Brian D. Johnson is sitting at an outdoor table at a coffee place he likes near the Toronto International Film Festival. He’s in the sun, hatless, and there is sweat on his forehead. Furthermore, people keep stopping to interrupt us because Johnson is a pretty popular guy in the film festival district, and also because, at this year’s festival, he’s a bit of a celebrity. He was the film critic for Maclean’s magazine for 28 years. Now, at 66, he has retired (“I’ve had a career. I’m looking for the sweeter ...