Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Derek draws my attention to John Irving's novel, The Fourth Hand. I haven't read it but I must admit the basic premise for the book is intriguing to me for reasons that will soon become obvious.

It's about a television journalist, Patrick Wallingford, who -- while on assignment in India -- loses his hand to a circus lion when he instinctively turns to record the lion's roar and puts his hand too close to the cage (beginning to see why I like the sound of this book?)

The footage of Wallingford's tragedy is broadcast again and again to millions around the world, and Wallingford becomes famous as the "disaster man" and the "lion guy." His obsession with replacing his missing hand coincides with the obsession of Dr. Nicholas Zajac, a Massachusetts surgeon who wants to perform the first hand-replacement surgery in the U.S. Neither Wallingford nor Zajac counts on the complicating presence of Mrs. Otto Clausen, who donates her dead husband's hand to Wallingford -- and then demands the right to visit the hand.

What concerns me is not the idea of finding a surgeon who can perform a foot-replacement operation, only for someone to demand visiting rights. Chance would be a fine thing. It's the notion of Wallingford becoming labelled for the rest of his life as "the lion guy."

I'm sure that our old friend Aron Ralston is going to be known for the rest of his life as "the amputation guy" and I fear I'm destined for a far less illustrious future as "the landmine guy."

I guess I'd better get used to it. Stuart Hughes -- the guy who stepped on a landmine.

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