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My Lobotomy: A Memoir | [Howard Dully, Charles Fleming]

My Lobotomy: A Memoir

"In 1960 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 10 minutes and cost 200 dollars." Assisted by journalist/novelist Charles Fleming, Howard Dully recounts a family tragedy of Sophoclean proportions.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Narrator Johnny Heller portrays a man recounting his distant and incomplete memories of a dysfunctional home with parents who abused him. In the opening chapters he speaks as the young boy, telling what behavior led his parents, in 1960, to have a quack doctor scramble his brain with an ice pick at age 12. Later Heller's sandy, mature voice becomes the teenager describing a troubled life, in and out of institutions and jails. Heller's expression fits the author's sad struggle to grow up after suffering parental and neural damage. He depicts no strong emotion until the last, when he assumes Dully's indignation at the discovery of the lies his stepmother told the surgeon to justify the destruction of his frontal lobes.

Publisher's Summary

A gut-wrenching memoir by a man who was lobotomized at the age of 12.

Assisted by journalist/novelist Charles Fleming, Howard 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 10 minutes and cost 200 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 percent of the operations Freeman performed) killed them outright. Dully's 10-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 40 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, and 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, listeners are left to speculate about what drove supposedly responsible adults to such unconscionable acts.

©2007 Howard Dully and Charles Fleming; (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Brutally honest....Truly stunning." (Publishers Weekly)
"Gut wrenching....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." (Kirkus)

What Members Say

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3.7 (139 )
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  •  
    James Gordon New York, NY 10-28-07
    James Gordon New York, NY 10-28-07 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Freeman's Folly"

    For an hour or so, this personal tragedy irritated me and made me feel uncomfortable. However, what at first seems like dishonesty soon reveals itelf to be an entirely truthful and extremely upsetting study of ugliness not so far removed.

    The author deals with questions and pain that thankfully most of us have never had to ponder. He reveals himself to be no better or worse than most of us. From his personal tragedy we can learn to be kinder, better people.

    I recommend this book for anyone not afraid to plum the depths of emotion and the troubled mind.

    14 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Geraldine 07-08-08
    Geraldine 07-08-08
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    "eye opening"

    This book is an interesting read. This ordinary boy undergoes a tragic event and is fortunate enough to come out of it with his wits intact. It is a study in how circumstances and situations form a person's perception of himself and influence his way through life. But in the end, his real character comes out. The book also sheds light on the government system and how it is used and abused quite readily without offering the real support people need to help themselves. The great thing about Henry Dully is that he does not judge, but narrates events as they truly happened and still manages to keep you involved in his story. A must read in my book.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sarah Layton, UT, USA 01-07-08
    Sarah Layton, UT, USA 01-07-08 Member Since 2007
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    "AMAZING!"

    This was an engaging listen. I was caught up in the story telling and the heart strings that were tugged. How could someone do this to a child? I definitely suggest this book at ANYONE!

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 06-29-10
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 06-29-10 Member Since 2008

    College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.

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    "Better than most..."

    books of this genre. A powerful and mostly unbiased account of the life of a man who was lobotomized when he was only 12 years old by Walter Freeman, the father of the worst "medical treatment" in the history of quackery. We are also reminded at the end of the book that we have not come so very far from the 1950's as we think, declaring that "difficult" children are bi-polar or ADHD (in the 1950's, "schizophrenia" was the catch-phrase for hard to handle kids) and filling them full of pills, giving them a "chemical lobotomy." The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carlos Brunswick, ME, United States 11-11-13
    Carlos Brunswick, ME, United States 11-11-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Heartbreaking, but a good story."
    What was one of the most memorable moments of My Lobotomy?

    There is a lot to take in, but the confrontation with his father was fascinating and heartbreaking for sure.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    His time at the special school - which was closed down - was entertaining.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The way in which the so-called doctor acted and behaved disgusted me beyond words. Also, Howard's father was particularly shocking in his reaction and excuses.


    Any additional comments?

    I hesitated to get this book for years, as the title seems too harsh. But believe me, it's a touching story about a young man who overcomes many heart-wrenching obstacles. Howard really is inspirational.
    Above all, this story is more proof that parents need to spend more time with their kids, and not be so hasty as to put them on psychiatric drugs. Often, if you correct the problems at home, your kids might likewise improve their behavior.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer Etobicoke, ON, Canada 08-24-13
    Jennifer Etobicoke, ON, Canada 08-24-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Freaky... the Things that went on...."
    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    It was weird to learn what doctors got away with back then.. It is difficult to continue listening because of the extreme repetitiveness in the novel.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. Lurie FL 10-26-12
    K. Lurie FL 10-26-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Captivating from beginning to end"
    What did you love best about My Lobotomy?

    Lobotomy's were not uncommon, yet first person accounts are rare. This story follows Howard Dully from childhood to his mid 50's, the whole time capturing his feelings and awareness of what's going on around him. He's telling a story that so many other patients are physically unable to tell.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The story focuses on Howard and his father, but I love the brother, who knew something was amiss, but never realized fully what it was.


    What does Johnny Heller bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Portability


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The description of the interview at the end of the book. It was enough to make me download the actual interview so I could hear it first hand.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mercedes carson city, NV, United States 08-02-11
    Mercedes carson city, NV, United States 08-02-11
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    "Slow.."

    Fascinating in content, but the book ran a little slow to me. It seemed to repeat the same facts over and over again. I enjoyed the actual NPR program where you get to hear his actual voice and the emotion he feels. The reader seems to be void of emotion.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anthony MARGATE, FL, United States 03-13-11
    Anthony MARGATE, FL, United States 03-13-11
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    "Boring...as in, when will this be over?"

    Some parts of this story were alright, but mostly the author just rambles on about his life story. The thing is, there is nothing distinguishable between before the lobotomy was performed and after as far as how he thinks and acts. Two of the chapters deal with the actual lobotomy, and the rest just seem to narrate this man's story. In my honest opinion, the story of one of the people he meets later on in life would probably have been more interesting than his own. All this being said, there are many times throughout the listen where I don't even remember that the lobotomy is the reason the book has been written. I found myself looking at my device hoping it was almost over and being disappointed again and again. Two stars for the parts of the story that were entertaining, even though those were the parts of the story where I lost track of the fact that the lobotomy was supposedly the reason for where he was and what he was doing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jenni Evanston, IL, USA 02-01-08
    Jenni Evanston, IL, USA 02-01-08
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    24
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    "So So"

    The book was so-so. It dragged on about every little thing he did wrong.

    2 of 7 people found this review helpful
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