November 01, 2010
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.