by Howard Dully
"My Lobotomy" is the biography of Howard Dully who actually had a lobotomy at age 12. The subject of this book seemed quite intriguing to me but the book itself is rather tedious. Mr. Duffy doesn't present himself as an accomplished writer and the writing of this book felt more like I was reading someone's highschool report. I was tempted to put the book down and call it quits, but the best was saved for last and I was happy that I stuck it out.
In mid-life Howard Dully finally decided to delve into the reasons he'd been lobotomized at such a young age. His operation was a transorbital lobotomy in which the doctor inserted an "ice-pick" into each eyesocket and "scrambled" his brains behind. The entire procedure took about 10 minutes once they subdued him through electroshock. Barbaric! Whether he thinks so or not, Howard was one of the lucky ones that survived the procedure pretty much intact. Many others became functional zombies, non-functional zombies or lost their lives entirely.
Much of the book tells of his life as a boy before and after the operation. Although he always felt different because of it, I believe the real issue was not so much the lobotomy but the lack of love and nurturing he received as a child. From his description of himself, he appeared to be a child that would have been diagnosed as ADHD today. Unfortunately, he had a stepmother full of anger that targeted him and him alone of the five boys in the family. She was full of hate and anger and Howard became her whipping post and the recipient of her abuse. She went shopping for a doctor who could "change" Howard. Most of the doctors she saw said she was the problem, not Howard, but she finally found a doctor she could manipulate with lies and eventually got her way. Howard was diagnosed as schizophrenic and removed from the family to be lobotomized.
After the lobotomy, Howard never lived with his family again. He spent time in JV, half-way houses, and sanitoriums simply because his stepmother would not allow him back in her world and the "system" kept trying to find a place for him. His father never stood up to his stepmother, but in his defense, he was a regular visitor to Howard. It would take an incredible strong person to survive what Howard survived unscathed with or without the lobotomy, and I believe that is where the real issues are - not the lobotomy. I'd refer to the operation as an ill consequence of the issues, not the actual problem itself. In his adult years, Howard was in and out of trouble and had no self discipline or direction and blamed that on his past, saying he had no instruction in day to day living, grooming, working, or being responsible. I won't argue that point but he did eventually pull it together and became a respectable citizen. Some people manage to do that despite the odds and many never do. I give him kudos for that.
Why am I glad I finished the book? Because it's not until that last quarter of the book that it becomes clear that the book is the result of an NPR program that Howard became the subject of while seeking answers to his own lobotomy. If you are interested in this subject and this man's experience, I suggest you forgo the book and visit the NPR program. You can listen to the broadcast and read more about Howard in much less time in a much more interesting format. Check it out here:
NPR: Howard Dully talks about 'My Lobotomy'