Skip to main content


The current New Yorker has a long cover feature charting the journey of a face transplant, written so expertly by Raffi Khatchadourian. Dallas Wiens, a young man who was trying to earn money to re-enlist back into the army, took on a job with his uncle and brother. Dallas went up into a crane, but ending up being struck by an overhead live wire. He lost his face. He nearly lost his life. I don't like how Khatchadourian opens the piece, though: 'God took Dallas Wiens's face from him on a clear November morning four years ago.' But then, the New Yorker is still American - and Dallas himself believes in a god. It sounds harsher - that this thing that Dallas now believes in more than ever caused a rebirth of a man through the loss of his face. His journey is a moving one; not just the journey from face/off to transplant - although I found myself so queasy by it at one point I had to stop reading and skip some of the fine details - but his life. He was lost - from a hard part of Texas - and found himself from job to army to job again, hoping to return to the army. But, what got me was that, towards the end of the feature, he says 'I had no childhood'. One cannot imagine such horrific trauma. Not just waking from a coma to be told you have face, but the fight to get a face transplant. But, one of the biggest battles is financial. He's now blind. Fortunately, the hospital ensured that insurance covered the immunosuppressants that Dallas will need to take for the rest of his life, if his body is not to reject the tissue of another. But they bring their own potential risks.

The more I read about America - the fact that medical costs are the biggest cause of bankruptcy leaving many without any cover at all; the relentless brutality of the Republican opinion that declares public healthcare to be synonymous with the devil they also believe in, and which doesn't seem to differ too much from their god either; the scant annual holiday provision; the non-existent maternity legislation - it's all very misanthropic - leaving people like Dallas Wiens believing that losing his face was somehow a test from god because he'd previously been on the wrong path, ergo, it's your own fault. Dallas, though, has a young daughter that he can love, and he is learning Japanese and Braille and he plays computer games for the blind. He also wants to write fantasy novels. It's a long, challenging read, which also includes bits of the stories of two other face transplantees - but it really made me think about how fragile we are, humans. And how fortunate many of us are to get to a decent age with most things intact.


Popular posts from this blog

Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

My PhD critical paper

I thought I'd upload the critical element of my PhD thesis. Hopefully, for those who are interested enough to read it, it will make sense despite the references to my creative work, which I can't upload as I'm seeking publication. And besides, at 68,000 words...

I'm also going to tweak section one of this three section critical paper with a view to journal publication because of the academic interest in the claims I make of Mary.

-Dedicated with love and respect to Dr Bruce Lloyd-

And in memory of my parents:
Thomas Valentine and Joan Theresa
Good people who taught me so much more than they realised


The biggest thank-you is due to Norma Clarke, Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Kingston University, who supervised this PhD. I never had cause to doubt my initial instincts as Norma proved to be the best mentor I could ever have wished for.

I would also like to acknowledge the generous studentship that I was fortunate to be awarded by Kingston Universi…

Midwinter Break - Bernard McLaverty

The only other book that I've read of Bernard MacLaverty was the sublime Grace Notes, published in 1997, and shortlisted for the Booker Prize of the same year. That prize was awarded to an author of another similar hiatus recently broken, Arundhati Roy, of the widely acclaimed The God of Small Things. I was certain, when buying the kindle version of Midwinter Break, that MacLaverty's first book in seventeen years (Cal, 2001, was his most recent) had made both the Booker Longlist and Shortlist - but having just double-checked - am disappointed and confused to find it had made neither. MacLaverty's prose style feels Yatesian, after the late Richard Yates, US author of Revolutionary Road, and TheEaster Parade
Midwinter Break, set in Amsterdam, is written in the same deliciously clear and poignant prose that so widely marked out Grace Notes. The husby and I have not long returned from a late summer break in that same fabulous city. With the visit to the Rijksmuseum still fre…