October 23, 2014

Two Dark Truths


Few things in this world do more damage to the well-being of the spirit than electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Hemingway died at the hands of it (virtually), and a woman once told me that her entire universe was demolished to smoking cinders as a result of a series of twenty electric shocks. Masquerading as “mental treatment,” this barbarous practice must cease. These two dark truths—I Killed Hemingway, and A Larry Comes—will tell you why.

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I Killed Hemingway

July 6, 1961

What I dislike the most about electric shock is the smell. That, and the little sound it makes which I didn’t hear at first. What with the humming of the machine, the doctors talking, and the patient moaning and even screaming sometimes, it was hard to hear, but once I did, once I heard this sound, distinct from all the other sounds in the room, now I can’t stop hearing it.
What it is is a tiny sizzle—as if you were frying a very small egg in not much butter, or in hardly any oil—that’s the little sizzle the electrodes make where they meet the skin. Of course, it’s usually just the jelly frying, but sometimes, if the patient needs a lot of juice, or if the helmet slips a bit, the skin fries too and then it leaves little marks that stay a while before they go away.

A Larry Comes

Tell me, what good is it to have God visit you if you can’t tell anybody about it? Or, if not God, then somebody looking very much like him, or how I had pictured him. Perhaps, to be safe, I should call him god, you know, lower case “g.”

No, that won’t do. There’s no escaping it: it was the Almighty all right, our capital “G” Father-of-the-Son God. I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. There is no doubt about it.

Yes, yes, I know it sounds crazy, but now and then things happen to you, incredible things, that you cannot deny—not to yourself anyway. For they did happen, and you know they did, whether the whole thing sounds crazy or looks crazy or feels crazy or is crazy or not. Took place. Occurred. Yes sir. So when in truth I did lay eyes on him, did talk to him, did meet him, how can I deny it? I can’t.