On the Move: A Life
by Oliver Sacks
Alfred A. Knopf. 397 pages, $27.95
IN THE MIDDLE of this richly detailed autobiography, published just four months before his death last August, Oliver Sacks tells a story about himself and a cat. In 1979, he bought a house on City Island, a small seaport community near the Bronx, the first home he owned since moving from England in 1960. One evening he came home to find a stray cat on his porch. He fed the cat, and each evening she awaited his return. They began eating together, the cat on the porch, Sacks inside the house near a window. This “interspecies relationship” charmed him, but at the end of summer he gave the cat away. The story illustrates a pattern: throughout his life, Sacks found it hard to believe that anyone cared for him. When he did find himself in an affectionate relationship, he could not abide it for long and usually put some geographical distance between himself and the other person. Hence, the book’s title. Only in 2008, when the author was 75, did he fall in love—with Billy Hayes, another writer. Their relationship would last for the rest of his life.
Daniel Burr is an assistant dean at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, where he teaches courses in the medical humanities.