‘It’s a mean old world, isn’t it?’
Beginning in 1953 The Incurables by Jon Bassoff is a character driven tale with its heart set in madness and its thoughts desperate for tranquillity amidst the Incurables of society.
Thirty-two hundred lives he’d saved, give or take, and he wasn’t done yet. The famous Dr. Walter Freeman, the pioneer of the transorbital lobotomy but when his time is deemed over, there’s no going back so he kidnaps his latest patient and it’s time for pastures new.
‘Without hesitation, he grasped the ice pick and jammed the point into the tear duct. He then gripped the hammer and struck the ice pick, once, twice, causing an audible crack. Back and forth, back and forth he cut. Then, with a twisting movement, he withdrew the ice pick, all the while pressing his gnarled fingers on Edgar’s eyelids, preventing hemorrhaging.’
And that is a transorbital lobotomy, Woah WTF, this apparently, effectively treats patients with a history of anxiety, depression, insomnia and bouts of homicidal mania. Dr Freeman and Edgar find themselves on the carnival circuit wanting only to help those in need. And with a sign.
‘The Amazing Dr. Freeman and his Transorbital Lobotomy. Ending Mental Anguish Today.’
Durango Stanton, sixteen year old Messiah, is also on the carnival circuit with his father, usually found sat cross-legged on a homemade throne, wearing a crown of thorns while dear old Dad preaches all the truths the sinners don’t want to hear. And then there’s Scent, a young woman who sells her body to survive, her Mother has loads of money hidden away, waiting for her lover to return, forcing them to live in poverty. So we have one crazy Father, one crazy Mother and as if sent from heaven, the good doctor.
“It’s the town. Out here in the middle of nowhere with all them ghosts whispering from beneath the bloody dirt. A town full of incurables, a town full of sinners, a town run by the devil. And wherever the devil is, God is sure to follow.”
The Incurables sees Jon Bassoff back to his best following a slight stutter with Factory Town, Scent was easily my favourite character, seemingly a fragile young thing with a dark side desperate for reparation but will she gets what’s due? In a place where insanity blossoms amongst the hopeless and faith doesn’t mean a thing, only death.
Words by Paul Nelson, @pgnelson72