Review: My Lobotomy by Howard Dully
It's difficult to read about the old days of mental health care, when chopping up a person's brain was considered a good idea. Howard Dully's lobotomy was a trans-orbital lobotomy: what amounted to an ice pick was pushed into the brain's frontal lobes and swished around a bit. He was twelve years old.
The NPR radio program is a very concise and emotionally compelling story. My Lobotomy the book is another kettle of fish. While it covers the same material as the program, it goes into information overload by telling us virtually everything that Howard Dully remembers from his entire life.
Not surprisingly, Howard Dully needed help with the writing from Charles Fleming. Johnny Heller does the reading of the audio book. This is too bad, as Howard's thick and tortured voice was one of the better parts of the radio program.
The first part of the book is compelling and talks a good deal about the history of the trans-orbital lobotomy: how it came into being and why hospitals and insane asylums were eager for anything that even remotely looked like a cure.
Dr Freeman, the man who performed the lobotomy, was a huge fan of electroshock as well as lobotomies. But Dr Freeman's notes, and an interview with his son, don't show us so much a monster as a man who belonged in a sideshow. He liked being the center of attention and performing lobotomies got him that attention.
At one point Howard Dully's father says that he thinks Howard would have ended up struggling with the same problems if he hadn't had a lobotomy. I have to agree that most of the book sounds like a loser blaming all his problems on his lobotomy. He constantly does things that get him into trouble, and he constantly defends himself by saying things like Yeah I made my little brothers cry and run away, but I didn't break their arms.Continued on the next page