Brain Surgeon by William Wallace and Memoirs of the Future by Eduard Prugovecki
This month's column is a little bit different as I'm not reviewing one particular book on or about Mexico. Rather, I'd like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to some local writers here in the Guadalajara/Lake Chapala area.
I recently had the experience of reading and enjoying four books, all within a very brief time span, and then realized that all four were written by local writers. This may be a retirement community but, obviously, as we all know, not everyone has come here to bask in the sunshine and quaff margaritas. And, as we all know, there's an amazing amount of activity here in the various areas of arts and crafts and in social action. But four published authors - three of them within walking distance of my house? That seemed a trifle unusual to this humble observer.
I mentioned it to a few people and was reminded by a couple of them that there's a tradition here for that sort of thing. After all, D. H. Lawrence lived here, in Chapala, back in the early '20's.
Two of the books have already been reviewed in this space. Mexican Mornings - Essays South of the Border by Michael Hogan was covered in February. It's an eclectic and entertaining collection of essays on a variety of subjects from the prevalence of machismo in Mexican life to the tolerant attitudes Mexican parents have towards their children. And South of Yesterday by Virginia Miller was reviewed in May. It's the story of how her parents came to Mexico in 1913 and settled here and how they coped with the Mexican Revolution four years later. Both are interesting "reads". Of the other two books, one is a murder mystery and the other a science fiction novel. Both are well worth your consideration.
Brain Surgeon is a novel by William Wallace. He's an 81 year old resident of Ajijic who retired here in 1989. He's a former neurosurgeon. His biography makes for interesting reading. He's a former boxer and was a World War II fighter pilot. He was also an inventor and has four patents to his credit. His various interests include the study of astrophysics and paleontology. And I should add that he's working on his second novel - another medical murder mystery.
Brain Surgeon concerns a military cadet who (accidentally?) shoots a fellow cadet in the head. The bullet is lodged deep in the brain of the victim. And the cadet doesn't die but, rather, he lingers in a state of total amnesia concerning the events of the shooting. The police suspect the shooting might have been deliberate but, without the bullet, they have no proof. The bullet is still lodged in the victim's skull.
Many years later the shooter becomes a doctor and, then, a neurosurgeon. His former roommate and the victim of the shooting suffers a brain hemmorhage and guess who has the task of removing the bullet in emergency surgery. The police have never closed the case and they are there to get the bullet to match it to the gun that was used in the shooting.
To tell you any more would simply spoil the story for you. Read it for yourself.
I should add that one of the attractions of this novel for me was the copious and authoritative medical lore that was provided by the author as part of the narrative. There's a description of an autopsy, for example, that is quite detailed and graphic. Best to approach it after your lunch is well digested. And I enjoyed Dr. Wallace's dissertation on how medical students select the specialties they will take up for the rest of their careers. Seems it all depends on what type of person you are. The doctor who is more interested in the welfare of humanity than in the treatment of individual patients may be best suited to research while orthopedic surgeons have a natural affinity for fixing things and enjoy working on the skeletal system of the human body. The pediatrician is the even-tempered member of the profession who puts up with snotty kids and harried parents and stays unruffled while the obstetrician has a need to be surrounded by happiness - bringing new babies into the world. Radiologists, dermatologists and proctologists are the more 9 to 5 types who need a routine and structured life while those who are attracted to neurosurgery are of a more dramatic bent and aren't too affected by a death or two.
You can get information on how to pick up a copy of Brain Surgeon from firstname.lastname@example.org
The fourth book in this review is a science fiction novel titled Memoirs of the Future . It's by Eduard Prugovecki, also a resident of the Ajijic community. Dr. Prugovecki is Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto. He earned his Ph.D. in mathematical physics at Princeton University and has published a host of research articles in quantum mathematics. In addition, he has a keen interest in utopian ideas and literature, which is reflected in Memoirs of the Future. He has been living in the area since 1998, although he was a visitor for many years before that.
Memoirs of the Future is concerned with a world where there are two competing societies. Dr. Philip Deron, a scientist who becomes involved in a suspended animation experiment wakens up in a future, some three hundred and fifty years from now. It's a future that has followed a devastating "Last Great War". One society, Terra, has more or less evolved out of the internet in which a gigantic computer complex coordinates the activities of a society where all forms of government have disappeared and everyone shares in a kind of grass-roots democracy. There are no leaders and no followers and everyone subscribes to a "code of social decency."
This is the "good" society - the one that provides freedom for its citizens. On the other side of the coin is another society, FWF, which has enslaved its citizens - again, through the computer control of personal documents, employment records and bureaucratic records along with the very effective use of propaganda and public relations and also through a technology that actually manipulates people's brains. Citizens are virtually anesthetized and believe that they are living in the best of all possible worlds.
The plot concerns itself with the conflict between these two worlds and, along the way, there's a good deal of philosophizing and speculation about our present day societies and where we may be headed in the future.
My only caveat with Dr. Prugovecki's book is that it is set so far in the future. I would have thought that, with the pace of change that we're all undergoing today, the worlds that he's describing would have manifested themselves in a much, much shorter time span. I mentioned this to him and his response was interesting. He didn't disagree but it seems the novel was conceived and begun quite a few years ago, before the internet had taken over our lives to the extent that it has. Perhaps if he, or we, had been able to see the changes this development has brought to the world in such a short time span he would have changed the date when his novel takes place.
For anyone who is interested in following up on any of Dr. Prugovecki's ideas he has written a paper for the publication, "The Futurist". Evidentally it won't be published for some months but it's available via e-mail. Try . (There's that internet phenomenon again!)Dr. Prugovecki's second novel, "Dawn of the New Man" is now available. Readers can obtain copies from this website: www.xlibris.com/DAWNOFTHENEWMAN.html .
Memoirs of the Future can be found at all the usual places….Barnes & Noble, Amazon, et al. However, be careful: there's another book around with the same title, which was published about the same time as Dr Prugovecki's novel. Its author is Warren Wagar. Dr. Wagar describes his book as a "set of memoirs, about my experience of anticipating the future since I was a boy of twelve." The two authors have since become good friends (via the internet, of course) and communicate frequently about utopian literature and futurist trends and ideas.
So there they are….! I know that there are even more locally written books available and more still being written. These are just four that I came across lately. Frankly I find it to be just one of the pleasures of living in this community where there's so much going on and where it's so easy to become connected with so many people with interesting histories and backgrounds.
I think that D. H. Lawrence would be pleased, and amused, too.