By 79th Street we decide to cut east, over to the American Museum of Natural History. Once we are inside, Oliver’s disposition brightens. We head over to the hall of mollusks and stop before a case of squid, nautili, and octopi. Oliver is by now positively chipper.
I ask him what he has always liked about them. For a moment he stares at the case thoughtfully—the polymorphous, slightly goofy octopus; the sleek propulsive squid; the squat cephalopod. He finally erupts, “You can see what I like about them.”
He pauses. “With octopi,” he says, “I suppose it was partly the face—that here, for the first time in evolution, appears a face, a distinct physiognomy, indeed a personality—it’s true, when you spend time with them, you begin to differentiate between them, and they seem to differentiate between you and other visitors.
“So, there was that, this mutual sense of affection for the alien.
“And their eyes, which are huge.
“And then there was their way of moving, which is jet propulsion.
“Their birdlike beaks, which can give you a nasty nip.
“And their sexual habits—the male, you see, donates a sperm-filled leg to the female.
“That, and their ancientness.
“And their simultaneous adventurousness—how they threw off the repressive shell and moved out, to float free.
“And then, I guess, their sliminess.”
He giggles. “I do like the slimy.”
Thursday, May 07, 2015
"Every dose an overdose"
Courtesy of Dave Lull, a gorgeous piece by Lawrence Weschler about his long friendship with Oliver Sacks. My favorite bit, which has almost the feel of Christopher Smart: