Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The electric trephine

Last night I read the first hundred pages or so of The Swarm (one of the last couple left of the January Humane Society haul), but Dorothy Dunnett has spoiled me: it is not at all bad, I guess, but the proportion of 'fact' to fiction was not what I found myself in the mood for ("You see, depending on the isotope -- you do know what an isotope is, don't you?" "Any two or more atoms of a chemical element with the same atomic number but with differing atomic mass." "Ten out of ten! So, take carbon" - real actual dialogue!).

So I put it aside and delved through the miscellany and came up with a book I've been meaning to read ever since I first read Oliver Sacks's piece about it in the NYRB (open-access PDF), Frigyes Karinthy's A Journey Round My Skull. It is an extraordinary little memoir about Karinthy's experience undergoing surgery to remove a tumor from his brain. This is a bit I especially liked (it gives the feel of the book's texture):
Incidentally, I have often noticed that my gestures are not original. I hold a cigarette exactly as my father did, and I have a way of turning my head that reminds me of a certain ex-Prime Minister of Hungary who once looked round in Parliament with an expression of surprise when some of us shouted a protest from the journalists' gallery. It is only when I am alone that I become conscious of these unnatural gestures, and once recognized I find them embarrassing. It amuses me to recall my first flight in an old-fashioned, pre-war aeroplane. I was alone with the pilot, who sat in front of me. Not a soul could see what I was doing, yet I found myself sitting in a rigidly conventional attitude. Carefully placing my hand in front of my mouth, I gave an embarrassed little cough. Then I tried to find the correct position for my hands. First I laid them carelessly on the sides of the 'plane, but I soon let them fall on to my lap and began strumming absent-mindedly with my fingers, as I had seen a fashionable actor do on the stage.

1 comment:

  1. A Journey Around my Skull sounds very interesting.

    Thanks for sharing