Thursday, November 29, 2007

Editorial Reviews
From Publishers Weekly
At age 12, in 1960, Dully received a transorbital or ice pick lobotomy from Dr. Walter Freeman, who invented the procedure, making Dully an unfortunate statistic in medical history—the youngest of the more than 10,000 patients who Freeman lobotomized to cure their supposed mental illness. In this brutally honest memoir, Dully, writing with Fleming (The Ivory Coast), describes how he set out 40 years later to find out why he was lobotomized, since he did not exhibit any signs of mental instability at the time, and why, postoperation, he was bounced between various institutions and then slowly fell into a life of drug and alcohol abuse. His journey—first described in a National Public Radio feature in 2005—finds Dully discovering how deeply he was the victim of an unstable stepmother who systematically abused him and who then convinced his distant father that a lobotomy was the answer to Dully's acting out against her psychic torture. He also investigates the strange career of Freeman—who wasn't a licensed psychiatrist—including early acclaim by the New York Times and cross-country trips hawking the operation from his Lobotomobile. But what is truly stunning is Dully's description of how he gained strength and a sense of self-worth by understanding how both Freeman and his stepmother were victims of their own family tragedies, and how he managed to somehow forgive them for the wreckage they caused in his life. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

"The lobotomy, although terrible, was not the greatest injury done to him. His greatest misfortune, as his own testimony makes clear, was being raised by parents who could not give him love. The lobotomy, he writes, made him feel like a Frankenstein monster. But that's not quite right. By the age of 12 he already felt that way. It's this that makes My Lobotomy one of the saddest stories you'll ever read."
—William Grimes, The New York Times

"Dully's tale is a heartbreakingly sad story of a life seriously, tragically interrupted. All Howard Dully wanted was to be normal. His entire life has been a search for normality. He did what he had to do to survive. This book is his legacy, and it is a powerful one."
San Francisco Chronicle

"In My Lobotomy Howard Dully tells more of the story that so many found gripping in a National Public Radio broadcast: how his stepmother joined with a doctor willing to slice into his brain with “ice picks” when he was all of 12 years old."
New York Daily News

"[Dully's] memoir is vital and almost too disturbing to bear-a piece of recent history that reads like science fiction… Dully, the only patient to ever request his file, speaks eloquently. It’s a voice to crash a server, and to break your heart.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer

"The value of the book is in the indomitable spirit Dully displays throughout his grueling saga…By coming to grips with his past and shining a light into the dark corners of his medical records, Dully shows that regardless of what happened to his brain, his heart and soul are ferociously strong.”
Chicago-Sun Times

"Plain-spoken, heart wrenching memoir ..."
San Jose Mercury News

"Gut-wrenching memoir by a man who was lobotomized at the age of 12.

Assisted by journalist/novelist Fleming (After Havana, 2003, etc.), Dully recounts a family
tragedy whose Sophoclean proportions he could only sketch in his powerful 2005 broadcast on NPR’s
All Things Considered.

“In 1960,” he writes, “I was given a transorbital, or ‘ice pick’ lobotomy. My stepmother arranged it. My father agreed to it. Dr. Walter Freeman, the father of the American lobotomy, told me he was going to do some ‘tests.’ It took ten minutes and cost two hundred dollars.” Fellow doctors called Freeman’s technique barbaric: an ice pick—like instrument was inserted about three inches into each eye socket and twirled to sever connections from the frontal lobe to the rest of the brain. The procedure was intended to help curb a variety of psychoses by muting emotional responses, but sometimes it irreversibly reduced patients to a childlike state or (in 15% of the operations Freeman performed) killed them outright. Dully’s ten-minute “test” did neither, but in some ways it had a far crueler result, since it didn’t end the unruly behavior that had set his stepmother against him to begin with.

“I spent the next forty years in and out of insane asylums, jails, and halfway houses,” he tells us. “I was homeless, alcoholic, and drug-addicted. I was lost.” From all accounts, there was no excuse for the lobotomy. Dully had never been “crazy,” and his (not very) bad behavior sounds like the typical acting-up of a child in desperate need of affection. His stepmother responded with unrelenting abuse and neglect, his father allowed her to demonize his son and never admitted his complicity in the lobotomy; Freeman capitalized on their monumental dysfunction. It’s a tale of epic horror, and while Dully’s courage in telling it inspires awe, readers are left to speculate about what drove supposedly responsible adults to such unconscionable acts.

A profoundly disturbing survivor’s tale."

See all Editorial Reviews

Product Details
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307381269
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307381262
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Sales Rank: #15,877 in Books (See Bestsellers in Books)

    Popular in this category: (What's this?)

    #23 in Books > Biographies & Memoirs > Specific Groups > Special Needs

    (Publishers and authors: Improve Your Sales)
  • In-Print Editions: Kindle Edition (Kindle Book) | All Editions

  • Would you like to update product info or give feedback on images? (We'll ask you to sign in so we can get back to you)

What Do Customers Ultimately Buy After Viewing Items Like This?

Tags customers associate with this product (What's this?)
Click on a tag to find related items, discussions, and people.
Check the boxes next to the tags you consider relevant or enter your own tags in the field below

Your tags: Add your first tag
Help others find this product - tag it for Amazon search No one has tagged this product for Amazon search yet. Why not be the first to suggest a search for which it should appear?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

My Lobotomy book tells tale of medical survivor

Advocate news services

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Until he was 5, Howard Dully was a happy child. That was the year his mother, June, died of cancer. June was “loving and indulgent,” Dully writes, so devoted that his father once said, “I could’ve dropped dead and it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference. She had you.”

After his mother’s death, neighbours started sewing and cooking, doing laundry for the Dullys. One of them, Lucille “Lou” Cox, became his stepmother two years later. Rigid and punitive, Lou hated Howard. When he was 12, she arranged for the boy to have a transorbital lobotomy.

The surgeon, Dr. Walter Freeman, did the procedure at Doctors General Hospital in San Jose, Calif. After sedating Howard with four jolts of electroshock, Freeman inserted two skewer-like steel knives into his skull, entering through the inside of the right and left eye sockets.

“(He) swirled them around,” Dully writes, “until he felt he had scrambled things up enough.” The lobotomy took 10 minutes to perform. The charge was $200.

This is the story that Dully, a 58-year-old San Jose bus driver, tells in his memoir, My Lobotomy. It’s a gruesome but compulsively readable tale, ultimately redemptive. Unlike most lobotomy patients — some became vegetables, 15 per cent died — Dully was relatively unscathed.

“The biggest impact it made on me was my self-esteem,” Dully says during a conversation in Jimmy’s, a San Jose coffee shop with early-’60s decor.

“You know, they changed me. They rearranged me. ‘Am I me any more? Am I really crazy and don’t know it?’ These things all go through your mind.”

Dully is hardly the picture of victimhood.

Six-foot-seven, 330 pounds, he’s a bear of a man with enormous hands, a voice like a cello and the visage of a grizzled biker. Until last year, he wore his mustache super-long and droopy, like Yosemite Sam, and then decided “I was hiding behind it.”

He’s on a leave of absence from San Jose Charter Bus while he promotes his book.

My Lobotomy began as a radio documentary on NPR’s All Things Considered in November 2005.

Producers Dave Isay and Piya Kochhar intended a profile on Freeman but when they found Dully, who had recently started researching lobotomy on the Internet, they fell in love with his story. They decided to focus on him instead, and urged him to narrate the piece in his gentle, resonant baritone.

The NPR piece captures a conversation with Dully and his father, Rodney, a former schoolteacher who was later divorced from Lou. “I was manipulated, pure and simple,” his dad says in regard to the lobotomy.

But when Howard breaks down and professes his love to his dad, his father answers, “Whatever made you think I didn’t know that? You shaped up pretty good!” He doesn’t say “I love you” back.

“Ever since my lobotomy I’ve felt like a freak,” Dully says at the end of the broadcast. (But) I know my lobotomy didn’t touch my soul. For the first time, I feel no shame. I am, at last, at peace.”

The response to the broadcast was huge. So many e-mails flooded in that NPR’s Internet server collapsed. Today, Dully says, there’s interest from Hollywood producers to make a TV movie or feature film from his book. “I’d love it, provided it’s done with truth. I don’t want any fictional account making someone out worse than they were or better than they were.”

There’s also a playwright in New York who, inspired by the NPR documentary, has written a play about Dully called The Memory of Damage.

Dully, who looks like a Buddha as he sits in his favorite coffee shop, seems to regard the celebrity as a cosmic joke. For someone who spent his life plagued by self-doubts, who says he’s still intimidated by his father, it’s difficult to accept this attention.

“I tease my wife and other people, and say I have a swollen ego,” he chuckles. “But I don’t have any news people camping outside my door. I don’t live in any mansion.

“My idea for writing the book was first to get a little closure — which I find a little selfish, but that’s OK. The other reason was to help people to think about how we treat each other daily. Not just loved ones but everybody.

“Something you start here or say here may affect somebody’s whole day, maybe their whole life. Ten minutes of what Freeman did to me has affected me for 47 years.”

Edward Guthmann writes for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Monday, November 12, 2007

MY LOBOTOMY A MemoirBy Howard Dully and Charles Fleming Crown. 272 pp. $24.95

Howard Dully's early life was a catalogue of horrors. His mother died when he was 5, and his father married Lou, a woman with sons of her own. What followed is reminiscent of those gruesome newspaper articles in which one child is singled out to endure all of a family's abuse. Dully didn't die of the neglect he suffered or the beatings he received, but he lost all sense of himself as a worthwhile being. When he was 12, with little protest from his father, Lou arranged to have him lobotomized by the notorious Dr. Walter Freeman, who pierced the back of his eye sockets with an instrument like an ice pick, and then twisted it into his brain.

Mercifully, Dully wasn't entirely incapacitated, but he drifted through adolescence, spent time in institutions and on the streets, and was for decades unable to find a permanent job. When he finally found a loving wife and work as a bus driver, he began researching his own story. He gained access to Freeman's notes, talked to his brothers and attempted to question his father (Lou had died by then). In 2005, he was the subject of a National Public Radio program on lobotomy.

Dully's prose is clear, and his story compelling. You can't help admiring his ability to achieve a measure of peace and understanding, and even more the generosity of spirit that allowed him to forgive not only the father who betrayed him but also the unspeakable Lou. ¿

Juliet Wittman teaches writing at the University of Colorado and is the theater critic for Westword, a Denver weekly.