Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Batting 500

The Blogger dashboard tells me this is Weekend Stubble post number 500: and that seems as good a time as any to mess things up by posting on a Tuesday.

One of my first entries read, in its entirety, "The Morrison Hotel, of album cover fame, is now overrun with rats." (The title on that post: "Ironically, So Is Jim Morrison.") But to this day, my single favorite Weekend Stubble entry -- for the sheer jawdropping unbelievability of it on so many levels -- remains this one from May 15th 2005. I now rerun it in its entirety:


Someone at the Times Literary Supplement deserves a case of wine for including an entire transcript of a frontal lobotomy operation within their review of Trepanation: History, Discovery and Theory. The doctor is Walter Freeman, the patient a 24-year old laborer named Frank, and the whole thing is the weirdest book excerpt I have ever seen. Read on...

Doctor: Are you scared?

Frank: Yeh.

Doctor: What of?

Frank: I don't know doctor.

Doctor: What do you want?

Frank: Not a lot. I just want friends. That's all. How long's this going on?

Doctor: Two hours.

Frank: Two hours? I can't last that long. (Squeezes hand)

Doctor: How do you feel?

Frank: I don't feel anything, but they're cutting me now.

Doctor: You wanted it?

Frank: Yes, but I didn't think you would do it awake. Oh Gee whiz, I'm dying. Oh doctor. Please stop. Oh, God, I'm goin again. Oh, oh, oh. Ow (Chisel). Oh, this is awful. Ow. (he grabs my hand and sinks his nails into it) Oh, God, I'm goin, please stop.

Doctor: Frank?

Frank: Yeh?

Doctor: What work have you done?

Frank: A little bit of everything.

Doctor: Such as what?

Frank: Brakeman on a railroad. That was a good job. Ow . . . and a material checker . . . Ow . . . stop, unh, unh, uhn. (The doctor records that at this point the patient is scarcely controllable, even though fastened down to the operating table) I liked that one, too. Hey listen, cut it out for God's sake. Oh, quit, I'm goin. What's goin on? . . . Hey, give me some air. (The towels have slipped a bit) Hey, what's goin on? Oh, please stop.

Doctor: Relax!

Frank: I can't relax. Oh, what's going on here? (Rongeur (a device for removing bone)) (Admits he feels no pain) Hey this is . . . Oh, you know I can't go on. Oh, I'm having trouble breathing. Oh, stop experimenting.

Doctor: Stop what?

Frank: I don't know. How long's this goin on? Fix it up. I'm having trouble breathing.

Doctor: Feel better now?

Frank: No, I'm getting worse. I'm goin. Oh, come on, will you?

Doctor: How much is a hundred minus seven?

Frank: Ninety-three, Unh, unh, Ow! (Tapping) eighty-six, seventy-nine, seventy-two, sixty five (Drilling) Ow! I don't know. Give me some air. Air, Air.

Ow! Hey, Cut it out. Cut it out! (Trembling hands still cold. He is quick to grab my hand when I try to take it away)

Doctor: How do you feel?

Frank: Yes, sir. Click.

Doctor: What's it like?

Frank: Oh, a pickle puffle phl, hey stop it will ya?

Doctor: You're grabbing me awful tight.

Frank: Am I? I can't help it. How long does this go on?

(Right lower cuts)

Doctor: Glad you're being operated?

Frank: Yes, it makes me feel better.

Doctor: Why all the fuss?

Frank: Oh, I can't help it. I can't breathe. Hey, what are you doing there?

(Right upper cuts)

Doctor: Feel all right now?

Frank: Yeh, I can't breathe. Hey, when is this thing over?

Doctor: What will you do when you are well?

Frank: Oh, go back to work. Oh, I can't stand it.

Doctor: What job?

Frank: Oh, it's a good job, brakeman with a railroad.

Doctor: Scared?

Frank: Yeh.

Doctor: Sing God Bless America.

Frank: (He starts rather high and does a couple of lines, then grunts and continues his chatter) Ow! That's hot. What's going on here? (Warm saline) (Left lower cut) (Left upper cut) (Stabs left)

Doctor: Was that hot?

Frank: No, it wasn't hot.

Doctor: How do you feel?

Frank: Yes, yes.

(10.15 a.m. He is moving his head about during the stabs) (Stabs right) (Voice suddenly becomes muffled)

Doctor: Who's operating?

Frank: I dunno.

Doctor: Are you uncomfortable?

Frank: No.

Doctor: Why do you jerk around?

Frank: I don't know.

Doctor: Can you breathe?

Frank: Yes. (He thumps with his hands which are now quite warm and pink)

Now, let me first admit that I had my doubts about this book review when I noticed that the book's authors include one "Stanley Finger" and -- so help me -- a certain "C.U.M. Smith." Or that the TLS reviewer for Trepanation is... wait for it... "Andrew Scull." At that point I threw my hands up and said -- alright, this is a pretty good wheeze directed at Jack El-Hai's The Lobotomist.

But damned if I didn't find that both the book and reviewer ... do in fact exist.

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