I did get a new lobotomy book last week, called The Lobotomy Letters. I got it because it contains excerpts of letters between Walter and his patients, which I saw some of myself when I went through the Freeman-Watts Papers at GWU, and which are endlessly fascinating. But it does also contain a rather vivid description of the cisternal spinal tap, and reading about those has given me a vasovagal response before. Have you ever had a vasovagal response? I get one sometimes when I read detailed descriptions of gruesome medical procedures, and the cisternal spinal tap is pretty gruesome. See, most spinal taps are done in the lumbar region, and I'm not saying I'd get one of those for recreational purposes or anything, but for one reason or another sometimes -- very rarely -- that isn't practical and a doctor will go for the cisterna magna, which is right under your skull. "Right under your skull" is not a place you want people messing around with needles, and the risk of the needle going somewhere you really don't want it to be, like into the medulla, which you need to breathe, is quite real, but Walter liked doing the cisternal spinal tap and would do it sometimes when a lumbar puncture would have done just as well. He called it the "jiffy spinal tap," and he liked it because (a) it was quick and (b) it was an opportunity to show off for his students, and he never missed one of those. You just bend the patient's neck over the back of a chair and stick that needle right in. I don't know why I can write about this so coolly now when twice I've read about it and almost fainted (something that would doubtless have pleased Walter). What got me this time was Walter's description of the distinctive "snap" the needle makes when it penetrates the dura mater. (This was taken from a letter he wrote as a young medical student in Paris. Just so he would later describe the distinctive sound of the ice pick penetrating the orbital bone at the back of the eyeball.) I closed the book, muttering, "No, no, no, no," and then the symptoms rolled over me in the familiar order: first nausea, then tunnel vision, the sensation of sounds reaching me from far away, and finally a cold sweat all over. It lasted about two minutes and then I was fine. One day Walter may actually make me faint, but it was not last Thursday on the A train, thank goodness.
I paid a pretty penny for this book, but it's already worth it for a quote from Walter that I don't think I'd seen before, spoken in response to some of the initial objections to lobotomy: "A brain can stand a good deal of manhandling."
So yes, I am returning to Walter. I'm not drawing yet, but I have all these lobotomy books and I haven't read all of them through. So I'm being systematic: I'm going to read through all of them and take notes on what I could draw. And then I'm going to plan out what to draw. This should be an improvement on my previous haphazard method of drawing whatever appealed to me on a given week. But I have learned that when I get to the part about the jiffy spinal tap I should skip the description, at least if I'm on the train.