November 01, 2010

McMurtry Book

Read with great interest the chapter in the Larry McMurtry autobiographical work about his bypass heart surgery and subsequent inability to read (he never uses the word 'depression', but that's surely what it was). His inability to find pleasure in reading, that "most stable of pleasures", was due, he thinks, to the violence perpetrated on him in the form of his chest being sawed open, his heart & lung function replaced with a machine for some minutes. He takes an almost mystical view of it, that he was a different person after the surgery, that he died in some sense. You can tell he has regrets, that he let doctors have a control that he wouldn't think of allowing in any other facet of his life. Yes they are the experts, but you can tell McMurtry would've preferred to take his chances of having a heart attack over the alternative. He hangs on wistfully to the last books he read before the operation, Woolf & Proust, seeing them as last links to his old self. The great advances we've made are not without their costs, and McMurtry's distrust of the unnatural finds a sympathetic audience here.

2 comments:

Gregg the obscure said...

In my experience, there's more to it than depression, although depression is surely a factor and probably inevitable in such cases.

As the '80s song had it, "there's always something there to reimnd me" - as true six months out as it was six days after surgery. From the occasional twinges of pain about the sternum to the scars, the easy bruising, the well-meaning folks asking earnestly after my health to remaining so much more conscious of arcana like fluid intake and output. And while it's great to have the second chance at life, along with that comes the realization of just how little I've done - before or after surgery - that makes any difference at all.

I've always valued time alone and in silence, but never as much as I now do, it's getting to be like the man said: "Man delights not me, no, nor woman neither." Even daydreams have more solitary subjects than they had in the past. I'd be content spending days on end with no one but the dogs for company.

TS said...

Thanks Gregg for the first-hand reportage.

I'm often stunned - despite plenty of experience to suggest I shouldn't be - by my own ignorance around many things. I always thought having surgery was no big deal (why? Because they put you out. They anesthetize you, as if the only measure of anything is the awareness of pain.)

So when my tough old father-in-law was laid low by the operation and suffered post-op depression, I saw how anytime they saw you open, it's serious. Duh. Slante to your health - spiritual and physical.