Alan J. Cooper, 429 pgs, Exile Editions, exileeditions.com, $22.95
This updated edition of a 2006 text offers a meticulous portrait of its author–a former business executive struck down by brain damage from a 1980s car accident. Told from the first person, Brain Injury is part autobiography, part personal vindication, describing in detail Cooper’s troubled child- and early adult-hood, but more particularly, his post-injury lawsuits and ultimate social, financial, and legal downfalls. The text is impressive in its scope, but frustrating in its conclusions: through no fault of Cooper’s, Brain Injury begins, progresses through, and ends on a defeated note.
This 2015 edition, with its sensationally large red bubble letters, borders on being disingenuous in its self-description. The front jacket boasts a quote from Laura Ford, “Doctor of Education in Applied Psychology”, reading: “At long last—the first total picture as revealed by a severely brain-damaged person!” and the rear subtitle goes as far as to label its narrative, “Finally, the Big Picture.” Brain Injury, despite these claims, is anything but an unbiased portrayal of Cooper’s trials, nor does it necessarily shed light on the (albeit, often similar) trials faced by other victims of severe brain damage. Cooper’s narrative voice betrays a single-mindedness which sees himself besieged, and all others (be they doctors, lawyers, parents, girlfriends, siblings, etc.) as ruthless conspirators. To what extent this assessment is true cannot be known, but when Cooper’s assessment of himself (“I shocked all with my tolerance and open-mindedness”) is contrasted with that of his in-laws (“She curled her finger back to her chest. ‘I am their granny and know what’s best for them. You know nothing, ha ,ha [sic], ha … I’ve got them now and you are just shit, ha, ha, ha!”), the text runs counter to the notion of depicting ‘the Big Picture’.
Cooper himself — determined, tenacious — is an inspiring figure, but his narrative is a discouraging one. (Joel W. Vaughan)