Cover image for Habitus
Title:
Habitus
Author:
Flint, James, 1968-
Personal Author:
Edition:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2000.

©1998
Physical Description:
x, 415 pages ; 25 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780312245450
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Jennifer is born in an asylum. Joel is the son of Hasidic Jews, and a mathematical genius. Judd is the mixed-race child of an actress and an IBM salesman. When the deeply connected forces of change and chance bring the three driven characters together for a brief moment, Jennifer becomes pregnant, and her child has two fathers. This strange child is a harbinger of the world to come.


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

British writer Flint's first book is an allegorical meditation on the nexus of flesh and machine, an eclectic essay on math, physics and Kabbalah--and only secondarily a novel. It abounds with gorgeous panoramic prose, yet totters irritatingly through self-conscious metaphors in service to the author's grand theme. As the forgotten space dog Laika orbits the earth, peeking in and out of the text, aware of humanity via electronic transmissions, a grotesque drama unfolds in England. Thirteen-year-old Jennifer, conceived when her brain-dead mother was raped in a mental hospital, and now living with her mother's husband in Stratford-upon-Avon, discovers she has a precocious interest in sex. Separately impregnated by Joel, a savant mathematician and Kabbalist Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn, and 10-year-old Judd, child of an English actress and an African-American computer salesman, Jennifer carries Emma, a child with two fathers, for two years. When the baby is born with a double heart and various other abnormalities, she is taken away from Jennifer. Though isolated in a hospital ward, Emma, like Laika, is psychically connected to the outer world, and she manipulates her three parents from afar, years later engineering her rescue by Jennifer. Meanwhile, Joel searches the world for the mystic underpinnings of apparent chaos, believing that if he collects enough data he can explain the Holocaust, and Judd nurtures a talent for gambling. Though masses of data on cybernetics, chaos theory and cellular biology flesh out Flint's intriguing if arcane theories, they often disrupt the narrative. There are too many grand epiphanies for the story to bear with credibility; the narrative hemorrhages at last into an apocalyptic finale, which is too easy, too broad a cap for such an elaborate edifice. Nonetheless, this highly unusual novel has a certain undeniable sweep and a muffled aura of significance. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One Dance and contagion We took a step forward, met Jennifer, Judd and Joel--now we must take a step back. Nadine Rachel Several, née Flowers, wife to Henry and mother to Jennifer, had been born an Aquarian in 1924. Nadine's father owned and ran a successful business manufacturing tyres, a line that had suddenly become extremely profitable during the Great War. Her mother had studied mathematics at university and had, in a small way, been a suffragette. Both her parents considered themselves "free thinkers"--it was that which had brought them together. They read Lawrence, Fitzgerald, Mann, owned a gramophone on which they listened to ragtime and Stravinsky, travelled to cocaine orgies in the Home Counties and swilled cocktails in London clubs. Indeed, before Nadine was born her mother had had a full-time job as a typist, part of the flood of women taking skilled office jobs at that time. The office environment was changing: all those in-trays, oak desks and efficiency drives took on a different taint, one that thrilled with differences and obscurities. The office was becoming a sexual environment and things would never be the same again. Although she stopped working for two years to look after her daughter, as soon as she could, Nadine's mother returned to work, this time as a computer in Leslie Comrie's department at the Nautical Almanac Office where, part of a mathematical production line, a successful attempt to compartmentalise mental labour, she helped to produce astronomical tables. Nadine's parents had always felt very strongly that their daughter should express herself in whichever way she saw fit. Nadine had no difficulty in following her whims and from a very early age she dreamt of being a dancer. Whenever her parents threw a dinner party she dressed herself in silks and leapt about the house soaking up applause from the guests. She was intoxicated with music and flow. She charted the career of Isadora Duncan quite obsessively and collected pamphlets that summarised the teachings of Mary Wigmore and Rudolph Laban.     Duncan had made the new dance fashionable and removed much of the social stigma that was attached to the profession. Dance schools became popular and Nadine's parents enrolled her in one in Bloomsbury. When her father expressed his one reservation--that such a career might be too physical for his delicate and possibly intellectual child--his wife rebutted the objection by quoting at him something from William James. "Muscular contraction appears to be closely related to the genesis of all forms of psychic activity," wrote her favourite psychologist. "Not only do the vaso-motor and muscular systems express the thinking, feeling and willing of the individual, but the muscular apparatus itself appears to be a fundamental part of the apparatus of these psychical states." And so the matter was settled. "Spin! Spin, girls, spin! And waft left, and waft right ... and still, and up, and breathe, and down, and sti-i-ill and up, and bre-a-the and down. And relax. And breathe. Breathe Lydia, breathe. From here, from your di-a-phragm. You look like a rabbit that's about to choke, my dear. Fill your lungs slowly, from the bottom. That's it, that's better. Good Rose, good. Watch Rose, Lydia, see how she does it? All right everyone? Breathe. And relax. Now, take your seats." The girls clattered to their desks like starlings to a telephone line and installed themselves facing Miss Bryant, who flexed herself against the rail of the blackboard while waiting for them to settle.     "Does anyone know what today is?" she finally asked.     Immediately Deirdre's hand shot up. Deirdre was always most keen to participate: before being enrolled at the dance academy she had briefly attended a very exclusive finishing school, one of the few which still used restraining devices to control the girls. Several of the teachers had demanded that the children wear leather silencers throughout their classes, a practice that Deirdre found particularly hateful. Freed from that regime, she now compensated by attempting to answer all questions that were put to the class. "The King's birthday, miss"     "No Deirdre, it is most definitely not the King's birthday." Miss Bryant was a republican and had once conducted a tempestuous affair with a Bolshevik who had for a brief period worked as a waiter in a restaurant off the Charing Cross Road. She was grimly aware that the King had not one but two birthdays. And that neither of them fell on that particular day. No other hands went up. Happily, Miss Bryant began to answer the question herself. "Well girls, exactly thirty years ago today an American named Wilbur Wright took off from the ground in his biplane, flew it around in a circle and landed again. Has anyone ever been up in an aeroplane?" This time a few arms made their way skywards. "Does anyone know why this fact is important to us?"     "So that we could win the war against the Kaiser, miss" offered Deirdre.     "Well, perhaps Deirdre, but it wasn't quite the answer I was looking for. No, the reason that this is important to those of us who are gathered here today ..." Miss Bryant paused for effect, "is because of all the tremendous impacts that this event has had upon our modern world it may well be true to say that it impacted harder upon the world of dance than on any other." Again she paused, but this time the children stared back at her with blank faces. Undeterred, she blustered on through her little speech. "Wilbur Wright, you see, had outdone the ballet! I know that sounds strange, but it's true in a way. Ballet dancers had always prided themselves on defying gravity. They were better at it than anyone else, and its one of the things that made the ballet so wonderful to watch. But with the arrival of the aeroplane a machine now did this much better. It could take off and land better than any ballerina, and it could circle around , which no ballerina could. In that respect the ballet had been outdone. But what it meant was that since you didn't need any longer to judge dancers only by how beautifully they could leap, new styles of dance were free to develop. Which is where our patron Ms Duncan comes in. Does everyone understand?"     Deirdre's hand shot up again. "But Miss Bryant, what about the boomerang, Miss Bryant. Doesn't that return to the place from where you threw it?"     "From whence , from whence you threw it, Deirdre" replied Miss Bryant, effortlessly deploying a traditional teacher's parry. "And it's not quite the same thing, is it?" Unfurling her wings on this slim updraft, Miss Bryant continued, "just as Wright had controlled his aeroplane from a central control stick which bent its wings this way or that, so Ms Duncan's new style of dancing had a centre too: the solar plexus. Placing the centre here leaves the spine free to channel energy between both the earth and the heavens, you see." She illustrated the point with an exaggerated movement of her left arm. "Ballet has always been built on straight lines. Only by running in a straight line could you get enough speed to leave the ground. But the new dance had no need to leave the ground--the aeroplane did that better than any person could. No, if you examine it you'll see that all the dancing we do here is based not around the straight line, but around the spiral ." Spiral or no spiral, Nadine was not destined to make the grade as a dancer. She soon tired of "the new dance" more a kinaesthetic than a craft, and transferred to a ballet school. But for ballet she had neither the application nor the talent. She was more than competent and was no disgrace to her teacher or peers, but after a year at the academy they all knew that she wasn't long for it. Nadine suspected this but could not understand it. What did she lack that the others, the golden pupils, supposedly had? Once she knew she had a poor reputation, Nadine practised and rehearsed harder than ever. Late into the night she'd go over her steps in her room, pirouetting around as quietly as she could. She stretched and exercised and hardly ate, arched her feet whenever she sat down, counted time and rehearsed moves in her head at every opportunity. But at the same time as she was working so hard, all this effort was killing something in her. Her desire to succeed became centreless, pointless. Deep down she had wanted to be a "natural talent." She felt that the skills should just come to her effortlessly. If she had to work so hard for them, then what was the point? She could never be relaxed, blasé, emotional about her art if she knew so intimately how it had been won. She could never be creative .     Then war broke out again and she was evacuated along with thousands of others to rural communities and village schools. In time she managed to forget about the slight clumsiness that she'd never managed to shake and which her dance teachers had known she never would, and also about her own waning drive. She cast herself instead in the role of talent passed by, beauty destroyed by the war, a precious and ever so slightly tragic figure.     Nadine did have a talent, though, one which she'd inherited from her mother and which began to blossom in the cold Midlands schoolroom where she took all her lessons. It was an affinity for numbers and she found, quite by accident, that she rather enjoyed solving numerical puzzles and writing out formulae and algebraic equations. She was eighteen in 1942, old enough to join the rows of women on the belching armament production lines or train to be a driver or a nurse. Although these options didn't appeal to her she was excited by the prospect of working and kept a look-out for something she wanted to do. When she saw some newsreel footage of comptometer operators in the local cinema she knew she'd found her niche. The machines shown were the first to have a keyboard for inputting numbers rather than an awkward set of levers or dials and the film was remarkable for the fact that the fingers of the women who operated these keyboards moved so quickly that the twenty-four-frames-a-second could not keep up with them. Six feet tall, the digits blurred across the screen before her, so fast it seemed even sight could not contain them. It was as if they had escaped, as if they had achieved a physicality which had gone beyond the realm of the day-to-day, and the effect was heightened by the simple, efficient clothing the operators wore and their obvious focus and determination. It was a dynamic, and Nadine recognised in it that which she had wanted from dancing. The discipline, the restrictions of the machine hypersensitised and titillated, while the virtuosity of the finger movements freed and expressed. She went for it.     There was a comptometer training centre in Birmingham, run by a woman who, as chance would have it, had worked as a computer with Nadine's mother under Leslie Comrie. She still had the clippings from Illustrated magazine pinned up in her office, from the time when Comrie had won a War Office contract for his own company, Scientific Computing Service Limited, to produce gunnery tables just three hours after Britain declared war on Germany. "Comrie's girls do the world's hardest sums!" the thirty-six-point declared.     The woman agreed to take Nadine on, and Nadine learned fast and loved it. She made friends with the other girls, embarked on a new social life and dropped her tragic, narcissistic airs. She was good at the work, too, so good that she found a part-time job only a few months into the course--working on the accounts in one of those armaments factories she'd looked down her nose at. But at the same time she continued with her training and when the special operations centre at Bletchley Park put out a request for computers the woman who ran Nadine's course put forward Nadine's name and she was selected.     Bletchley, Alan Turing, Colossus--names the public wouldn't know until long after the war was over. This is where they helped the man who made the thing which cracked the codes that Jerry built. Nadine arrived just as Colossus became operative. One of the very first electronic digital computers, its 1500 vacuum tubes needed a room of their own. Nadine only saw the monster once: her security clearance didn't give her access; but while she was at Bletchley she had a number of more or less torrid affairs--it was the war, dear, what would you have done?--one of which was with an MP called Tom who had the keys and who snuck her in one night. With the panels of lights clicking away behind them and the fans filling the room with noise they made love in front of the thing, made it an offering though they didn't see it that way, no, it was just sexy, all that power, and Tom's thick cock dug away at her like a piston and he showered her he showered her with sparks. After the war Nadine moved back to bombed-out Birmingham and found further work as a computer. She liked her independence, wasn't about to give it up, even when she agreed to marry Henry, a man she'd yaguely known at Bletchley. He'd been one of the mathematicians, slightly older, not bad-looking, though back then she'd preferred the soldiers. But he'd remembered her all right, they had a name for her in his set, something to do with her surname, Flowers, which it didn't bear repeating, and back in Birmingham, an accountant now, he looked her up and asked her out. They courted calmly amid the ruins--it was so romantic, citizens with a responsibility to rebuild their country and their world, it was something amazing--and in 1948 they married.     Apart from the fact that she liked him there'd been another factor favouring Henry as a husband: he was sterile. Nadine wasn't interested in children, never had been, she loved her job. She didn't want some man nagging her to give it up and sit at home and coo. So Henry was perfect--handsome, kind, with interests of his own and surprisingly fierce as a lover. They had three perfect years together, before Nadine lost her job and her career. Vacuum tube machines were moving into the business environment and her virtuosity was no longer required. Artificial intelligence was here! It was efficient! It was clean! There were plenty of other jobs for people to do! Women! Britain needs children! We have a country to build!     But Nadine didn't want to do anything else. She didn't want to work in a bank, serve as a secretary, teach nursery school. And she made a useless housewife, too--she hated washing and cooking. She was a computer; nothing else would do. But she couldn't find a position in the new industry; no training, apparently. What did they want her to do? A college degree? She typed out dozens of applications, but no letters came in reply. She went to the movies, again and again, hoping for another flash of image-induced inspiration like the six-foot fingers had brought on before. She became obsessed by the idea that she would find an answer here, but when it became apparent that no such inspiration would come she became obsessed by the movies themselves. The picture houses were a parallel world for those who could not deal with their memories of war or with the hardships and penury of peace. Nadine joined them, disappeared into the flicker of images, grew into her seat like some plant that thrived on the strobe effects of projected chiaroscuro. Many nights Henry would trawl the theatres in search of her, stumbling up and down aisles in the semi-dark, yelled at by addicts stirred from their wide-eyed narcosis by the blank of his form. But when he brought her home she continued to grow, the living-room wall or the log fire her silver screen. She was a dancer who had put down roots, she was the woman who had held her hands to the sky and branched out, she was the ornamental bush gone to seed. She'd grown above and apart, and she wanted to grow further still. Soon, strung out, no one could touch her reach her climb her. She wound her limbs through their house in Hagley Road, peeped her shoots through the letter-box and out between the tiles, ransacked all the dark corners lest something had slipped out of sight. She grew her bark thick to resist all attack, crowded out the weeds which pulled at her feet.     She became so entwined and entangled, such a thicket, that in order to breathe her trunk had to split. With a wrenching sound it opened like a follicle and unfurled. A pillar of chitin grew forth and fountained out the spores of self-pollination. She no longer needed letters to come, for now she had leaves of her own. Captain Henry A decade later Henry Several settled back against the chafed leather of one of the armchairs of the lounge bar of The Crown on Birmingham's Corporation Street and adjusted the three watches that he now wore on his wrists--two on the left and one on the right. The pub's clock said six o'clock and none of the watches agreed, so he reset them all and gave them a wind. Then he picked up the Birmingham Post and gazed at the business pages, trying to make out the articles through the haze of his third gin. Between headlines he glanced up, shifted in his seat and smiled at whoever caught his eye.     The pub was humming with the usual early evening crowd. Greasy articled clerks fresh out of Chambers were drinking Bass and throwing packets of crisps back to their pals over the heads of the other patrons. Portly solicitors drank to forget their liver troubles and sounded off on favourite subjects. Starched accountants wheezed away in the smoky corners. Dressed in dark suits that sagged at the elbows and seat, the youngest of them sporting pimples and bright ties, the oldest combining the two effects in the patches of broken blood vessels years of drinking had splashed across their cheeks, the men filled the room with their caws and guffaws. Henry knew most of the drinkers by sight but, unusually, there was no one present to whom he'd actually been introduced. It wasn't until Sneak Riley swaggered in through the door that he was saved from the sad bastard fate of drinking alone.     Riley made a beeline for him, and Henry got to his feet and greeted the new arrival with an affable grin. "Mr Riley, sah, good evening to you. And what will you be having?" he asked, shaking Sneak's hand and guiding him in the direction of the bar. Riley was not one to stand on ceremony and rather than spar for the honour of buying the round he murmured, "Very kind, very kind," in his obscurely affected way and requested a gin and tonic.     "And make it a double," Henry called to the barman, an Irishman name of Sean Finnegan who worked the bar a couple of nights a week and occupied the rest of his time buying black-market product for a Dublin-based condom-smuggling ring. It was the kind of business in which Sneak might have been involved had he known about it and knowing Sneak, it was probably not going to be too long before he did.     "Very kind," Sneak murmured again, sizing up the curves of Sean's arse as the barman reached down for a fresh bottle of gin.     "And one for yourself, barman" added Henry, on a roll now.     Finnegan turned round, and Sneak coughed and laid his neatly folded newspaper on the counter. "Don't mind if I do, sir"     The drinks came and the two men transported them across the room to Henry's table, Henry slopping his a little. They sat down and Sneak took a gulp of his and fetched out a fag. Henry pulled out his lighter and leant across to light Sneak's cigarette, the ash from his own falling into his drink as he did so. Sneak noticed; Henry did not. Sneak said nothing, preferring the small twinge of pleasure to be procured from watching Henry drink down the ash.     Ostensibly a barrister, Sneak Riley made his own living and that of several other people besides by noticing just these kinds of minutiae. He cared nothing for the law but knew it well--the many intricacies of tort and precedent were useful tools in the bigger game of getting people to do what he wanted them to do. "Have you heard about Donald Buerk?" he said, out of the blue. Henry replied that he hadn't, that he didn't know Donald particularly well. "Bought himself a television a while back. Much to the annoyance of Doreen. Have you met his wife?"     "Er, no, I don't think so. She's a teacher, isn't she?"     "That's right. She hated it, apparently. The television, that is--though I'm pretty sure she's not too partial to the other as well, if you know what I mean." Henry smiled thinly, still enough of himself at this early stage in the evening to be unimpressed by Sneak's repartee. "Well, to cut a long story short, it's twisted his head. So I'm told"     "What?" said Henry, suddenly interested. "Lack of ... you know?"     "No, you fool. The television. Though you never know."     "What, you mean he's gone ..."     "Yes, quite loopy, apparently. Sits at home in front of it all day. Masturbating. So I'm told"     "That's terrible."     "Aye"     "Good God." Both men fell silent for a while and sipped at their drinks. Henry noticed that his cigarette had burnt its way down to the filter, so he dropped it in the ashtray and lit another. He offered one to Sneak, who declined. "You were his best man weren't you?" asked Henry.     "That's right." Another pause.     "You two go back a long way, then."     "'S'right."     "You must be devastated, old man."     Sneak raised up his palms and brought them back into his lap. "Well, these things happen. Want another drink?"     "Oh, yes. Same again, I think." Sneak sloped off to the bar and left Henry to ponder the news. It had set off cascades of alcohol-blurred associations across the surface of his mind and the lineages of thought fell into two broad families. On the one side there was a bloodline of debate over the question of whether or not he should get a television for his daughter, Jennifer, who was seven that year. On the other a tribe of memories of his wife's insanity trekked about his tilted mental plane like Scythians across the steppe.     Sneak returned with the two drinks.     "Do you know who my best man was," Henry said, taking a slurp of his gin and suddenly eager to change the subject.     "No. Who?" said Sneak, always up for a new bit of information to process.     "Alan Turing."     "Alan Turing? Don't think I know him. Should I?"     "The mathematician."     "Don't know any mathematicians. Never was the academic type."     "No. The famous one. Chap who did all the code-breaking during the war."     "Oh, the Bletchley Park chappie. The one who topped himself. Woofter, wasn't he?"     "So they say," said Henry coldly. "Always seemed like a splendid fellow to me."     "Obviously."     "What?"     "Well, old chap, you did make him your best man."     "Oh, yes. Of course. Yes." There was a slightly embarrassed pause.     Sneak, delighted with the way things were turning out, broke it: "So, er, when were you married?"     "Not long after the war, 1948. I'd spent a lot of time with Turing between 1940 and '45. Worked with him on the Enigma project. Always had a bit of a dodgy ticker and having a head for numbers I was more useful to them back here than over there."     "So you were one of those code crackers, too, then, were you?"     "I suppose so. It wasn't a bad war for us, you know. Clever bunch of chaps. Never met their like. Good company, too."     "Never interested me, personally. Bright, was he, this Turing?"     "Oh, yes," said Henry, maintaining an esoteric air. "Extremely bright. Outrageous what they did to him. Poor bastard."     Sneak said nothing for a while. Then: "She passed away a while back, didn't she?"     "Who?"     "Your wife."     "That's right." The booze sloshed around him; he was all at sea. It was the element in which he was most at home. "He was a great man, you know!" The words fell from his mouth and paddled around the glasses on the table like two great blobs of mercury. His eyes clouded slightly and he rubbed at them with his left hand.     Sneak leaned back a little in his chair, intrigued. "You all right old man?" he crooned. "I say, don't you think you've had enough?" On the train back to Stratford Henry fell asleep. If it weren't for the fact that the guard was used to him he would have missed his stop. He'd done it before--and spent the night in a park in Oxford, a fresh topic of conversation for the local drunks and tramps. As he walked home, the streets were full of Turing and Nadine. When he reached the bridge he stopped, as he always did, and gazed out at the theatre. Its lights raked the water into furrows; there was no breeze and the reflection on the river's surface resembled a row of ultraviolet striplights, arranged to bring out the secrets in the sky. Back home, he shut himself in his study and poured himself a whisky. He sat in his chair for a while, swivelling nervously and trying to refill his lighter with fluid. He missed the hole and the petrol squirted out on to the desktop and bloomed across the leather. The stains looked like flowers, then gunshot wounds. Henry began to cry. He heaved great sobs into the room and his tears turned the wounds into a mutilation.     When the sobbing stopped he pulled out his handkerchief and wiped his face, then took a key from his pocket and went over to a small chest in the corner of the room. He unlocked it and took out a bundle of letters.     He untied the ribbon that held them all together and let the envelopes tumble on to the desk. He chose one and removed the contents. He thought of Nadine, of how she'd become hard wood and pale grey. When she could no longer speak there were buds blossoms twigs where her hands had been. Henry fingered the violet sheets, held one to his cheek. He glanced at the words. Jaundice ... Skin ... Jade Ether ... Blaze ... Leather Weather ... Grammar ... Heather Two Poles ... Descent ... Spin Colossus ... Vortex ... C(l)ock Lung ... Lightning ... Elastic Connect ... Flight ... Fuck Voice ... Anchor ... Shoal Nadine ... Inching ... Turquoise Cunt ... Damp ... Metal     When she'd no longer been able to speak, she used to write these letters to him, often while he was sitting there in the room with her, then seal them in envelopes and hide them for him to find around the house. Back then, whenever he'd found one under his pillow, inside the fridge, slipped in between the flowers in a vase, he would pore over it as if it were a rune or a glyph which held the key to her condition and, if deciphered correctly, would make sense of it. But an interpretation had always escaped him and now, even now, he couldn't read another word. Couldn't. Didn't.     On the bottom of the bundle was another letter, carbon on stiff white. He looked at that instead. 19 December Dear Dr. Supine,     I am writing to thank you for taking on my wife's case. I know how busy you must be, and I feel forever indebted to you for the interest you have taken in her. If there is any way that I can ever return the favour, please do not hesitate to call on me.     I am aware of the possibility that Nadine may never return to her former self. I am also aware, drawing my own conclusions from what you have said, as well as from comparable case histories that I have taken the liberty of looking into, that this possibility, grim and hard to come to terms with as it may be, is also the most likely one. Should the prefrontal leucotomy that you have recommended prove unsuccessful in effecting a cure then it will be incumbent upon me to organise the setting up of a fund for her provision throughout her remaining years. I therefore seek your advice upon selecting a suitable institution in which she might be housed and in which she would be surrounded with the usual comforts befitting a lady of her standing and reputation     May I repeat that should you ever require my help concerning any matter, then I shall remain,     Your Obedient Servant,     Henry Several The great gig in the sky The hair is shaved away and the scalp disinfected. Above the hairline a transverse incision is made. The scalp flap and a flap of epicranium are reflected forward and large trephine circles are drawn to within one centimetre of the midline, as low down as possible. The dura is opened and a transverse incision two and a half centimetres wide is made in the cortex. A two-centimetre cleft is then opened in the white matter, which is divided using a fine suction tube. Simultaneously, spatula forceps are introduced; the incision is then deepened. Puncture with a ventricular needle ensures that the cut is kept one centimetre above the orbital roof and the incision is kept on this descending plane as it passes below the head of the caudate nucleus. The underlying cortical area (Area 13) lies behind and below the ascending thalamofrontal radiation, which passes between the caudate nucleus and the putamen. The posterior vertical incision crosses the corpus striatum before entering the posterior orbital region. Direct observation confirms that the inner tip of the spatula blade is kept one centimetre from the falx. Unless this point is checked the weight of the spatula handles may cause right lateral deviation with the result that the incision misses the objective and passes laterally to Area 13--an event which will surely vitiate the result, as shown by the difference in effect between unilateral and bilateral stereotaxic implants.     Maximum benefit is derived from the posterior two centimetres of the incision. There appears to be a concentration of fibres in these last two centimetres, division of which produces adequate relief of symptoms. Whether these are descending fibres passing down from the frontal cortex through the substantia innominata towards the hypothalamus, or whether these are directly connected with the primitive agranular cortex of Area 13, cannot be stated, but we regard this area of the substantia innominata, lying beneath the head of the caudate nucleus and the overlying Area 13, as an important objective in treatment. Vertical incisions which enter this area, however, produce serious damage, as a result of which this area has for long periods been regarded as taboo. Nadine had been committed in 1957, on 3 November, the day of the Sputnik II launch. Throughout the following year, as the North American Space Agency was inaugurated and the European Centre for Nuclear Research began operation, her condition deteriorated until finally the decision was taken, with Henry's approval, to operate. On 12 September 1959, at the very moment that Luna 2 impacted upon the surface of the moon and deposited there the Soviet Coat of Arms, Jennifer's mother became the last person in Britain to undergo a prefrontal leucotomy. At that moment Nadine and Luna 2 both disappeared into their respective twilight worlds and shortly afterwards Nadine--though, as far as we know, not Luna 2--became pregnant. (Continues...)