Franklin leads his readers through the grisly, tense terrain of brain surgery, moment by moment. We experience the story as if it were live reporting: Franklin tells it in present tense, sound by sound, image by image. The pop, pop, pop of the heart monitor. The exhausted gaze of the surgeon. His probes deeper into the brain.

Franklin’s tell-it-like-it-is, no-nonsense sentences; his sparing comments and asides; and his matter-of-fact, almost cold, conclusion—all make for original, unsentimental writing. The pace is taut, the descriptions rigorous and poetic at once:

“The aneurysm finally appears at the end of the tunnel, throbbing, visibly thin, a lumpy, overstretched bag, the color of rich cream, swelling out from the once-strong arterial wall, a tire about to blow out, a balloon ready to burst, a time-bomb the size of a pea.” (Notice the economical, muscular use of language and metaphor here: Franklin does not need to say, for example, “it looks like a tire about to blow out.”)

Unlike many narrative medical stories, this is a piece less about the patient, more about the brain, the surgery and its risks. The average reader finishes the story more knowledgeable about each.

Read “Mrs. Kelly’s Monster,” by Jon Franklin

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