Synopses & Reviews
At twelve, Howard Dully was guilty of the same crimes as other boys his age: he was moody and messy, rambunctious with his brothers, contrary just to prove a point, and perpetually at odds with his parents. Yet somehow, this normal boy became one of the youngest people on whom Dr. Walter Freeman performed his barbaric transorbital—or ice pick—lobotomy.
Abandoned by his family within a year of the surgery, Howard spent his teen years in mental institutions, his twenties in jail, and his thirties in a bottle. It wasnt until he was in his forties that Howard began to pull his life together. But even as he began to live the “normal” life he had been denied, Howard struggled with one question: Why?
“October 8, 1960. I gather that Mrs. Dully is perpetually talking, admonishing, correcting, and getting worked up into a spasm, whereas her husband is impatient, explosive, rather brutal, wont let the boy speak for himself, and calls him numbskull, dimwit, and other uncomplimentary names.”
There were only three people who would know the truth: Freeman, the man who performed the procedure; Lou, his cold and demanding stepmother who brought Howard to the doctors attention; and his father, Rodney. Of the three, only Rodney, the man who hadnt intervened on his sons behalf, was still living. Time was running out. Stable and happy for the first time in decades, Howard began to search for answers.
“December 3, 1960. Mr. and Mrs. Dully have apparently decided to have Howard operated on. I suggested [they] not tell Howard anything about it.”
Through his research, Howard met other lobotomy patients and their families, talked with one of Freemans sons about his fathers controversial lifes work, and confronted Rodney about his complicity. And, in the archive where the doctors files are stored, he finally came face to face with the truth.
Revealing what happened to a child no one—not his father, not the medical community, not the state—was willing to protect, My Lobotomy exposes a shameful chapter in the history of the treatment of mental illness. Yet, ultimately, this is a powerful and moving chronicle of the life of one man. Without reticence, Howard Dully shares the story of a painfully dysfunctional childhood, a misspent youth, his struggle to claim the life that was taken from him, and his redemption.
"'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.)' Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Dully became, at age 12, one of the youngest victims of the infamous ice-pick lobotomy. The story of his courageous journey to understand why this nightmare happened is told here.
About the Author
Former Newsweek correspondent and Vanity Fair contributor Charles Fleming is co-author of the New York Times bestsellers Three Weeks in October: The Manhunt for the Washington D.C. Serial Sniper (with Charles A. Moose), A Goomba's Guide to Life (with Steven R. Schirripa), and author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller High Concept: Don Simpson and the Hollywood Culture of Excess and the novels The Ivory Coast and After Havana. He lives in Los Angeles.