from “A Writer’s Life”

Prior to my homecoming visit to Alabama, I had frequently been in contact with the newly appointed editor of The New Yorker, Tina Brown, a 40-year-old British-born, Oxford-educated blonde who reminded me of my high school English teacher—a comely, decorous and demanding taskmistress, who was often at the center of my teenage erotic fantasies and who was the first woman to personify for me the awesome combination of sex appeal and professional power.

In fairness to Tina Brown, I should explain that these dual qualities in her case were accompanied by a well-bred manner and a subtle sense of humor and also the capacity to influence people through a bit of flattery and a directive style that was never so ironclad as to seem unreasonable. I further think that Brown was particularly compelling and seductive when dealing with men of means or of other assets who were close to the age of her father, George Hambley Brown, a film producer, whom she adored and who, in turn, stal-wartly supported and encouraged her throughout her meteoric rise in the magazine business, beginning in London as the editor of the Tatler when she was 25.

Two years later, in 1981, she married a man who was 25 years her senior, the celebrated 52-year-old editor of the London Times, Harold Evans, who, when she first fell in love with him, six years before, had been married for decades to a woman with whom he had three children. Another important man in Tina Brown’s life, and the same age as Harold Evans, was the American media entrepreneur Samuel I. Newhouse, who would agreeably lose millions of dollars while underwriting her career in New York, first installing her as the editor of Vanity Fair in 1984 and then transferring her to The New Yorker in 1992. Notwithstanding her lavish spending on editorial production and promotion, and the high fees and liberal expense accounts she extended to her writers, photographers and other contributors, she actually increased the market value of the Newhouse properties by adding to their name recognition and by tailoring their appeal to increasing numbers of readers and advertisers.

She was called the “Queen of Buzz” by Judy Bachrach, author of a biography about Tina Brown and Harold Evans, and the writer and ex-editor of The New Republic, Andrew Sullivan, saw Brown as enthralled with “the crazed cult of contemporaneity,” adding that she was a “woman of her time, acutely in sync with the delirious daydream of the 1990s and the media vanities it fostered and to which many of us fell victim.” Although she drew much media scrutiny in the United States, as she had earlier in England, her detractors rarely seemed to rattle her to the point of discouragement. “The dogs bark,” she said, “and the caravan moves on.”

I first met her, along with Harold Evans, in New York during the late 1980s at a book party celebrating the latter’s memoir, “Good Times, Bad Times,” in which, among other things, Evans wrote about his unpleasant experiences with the London Times’ owner, Rupert Murdoch, who had fired him in 1983, a year after Murdoch had become the proprietor. This was less than two years after the Evans-Brown marriage and two years before they would settle in New York—she as the 30-year-old doyenne at Vanity Fair and he as a 55-year-old newsroom veteran with a distinguished past and an uncertain future.

But by 1990, he had been selected by S.I. Newhouse to serve as the president and publisher of the Random House trade division, and with her elevation to The New Yorker in 1992, Tina and Harold were generally recognized as the reigning couple in the capital of communications. Nan and I enjoyed attending dinners at the couple’s East Side residence, occasions that brought together individuals from the worlds of entertainment, publishing, fashion, finance and politics. And one day when I was having lunch with Tina Brown during the summer of 1993, seated next to her at her usual corner table at the Royalton Hotel on West 44th Street, a short walk away from The New Yorker’s headquarters, I was pleased and honored to hear her express the wish thai I become a contractual contributor to her magazine. I could have my own office at The New Yorker, she said, and would be identified as the “writer-at-large,” which was the title she had bestowed upon Norman Mailer when he had worked with her at Vanity Fair.

What appealed to me about Brown’s proposal was that it would offer me relief, at least during the year’s length of The New Yorker’s proposed contract, from my ridiculous life as a prolific author of unfinished manuscripts. Despite all the time that I had spent in familiarizing myself with such restaurant personalities as Nicola Spagnolo, Elaine Kaufman and Robert Pascal, and despite my delving deeply into the history of the “Willy Loman” building of bad omens at 206 E. 63rd St.—and all my research on the subject of Alabama—I had nothing that I could rightly point to as a book in progress.

1 wondered if part of my problem was in choosing to write about people and places that changed little over prolonged periods of time and about which it was difficult to draw conclusions. What could be concluded, for example, about the complex situation existing in present-day Selma? It was.also possible that I was subjecting myself unduly to pondering and procrastinating because I tended to see each and every subject from different angles and varying viewpoints—a prismatic vision that is said to be commonplace among the people of Italy I once read a historical novel by Peter Nichols about Italy’s Cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo, a militant clergyman who was loyal to the Spanish Bourbon monarchy in Naples and led a popular late-18th-century uprising against the invading forces of Napoleon, and one of the books characters laments, “We Italians have suffered enough from being able to see too many sides at once.”

If 1 worked for Tina Brown, I would not have that option, nor would I have much time for ruminating. I would become part of a fast-paced weekly magazine, directed by Brown’s surefire instincts and youthful, though experienced, judgment. Still, she had tilted this magazine more toward topicality and “buzz,” and I was not sure that I would fit in, especially if she assigned me to do profiles about people who had just entered the limelight or otherwise met the current definition of celebrity. Back in the mid-1960s, a year after leaving The New York Times, I had enjoyed working for Esquire’s editor, Harold Hayes, under the terms of a one-year contract, but Esquire was a monthly, and I believed that, with Hayes, I had been allowed more space and time than Tina Brown would presently permit, although in this matter I realized I could be wrong, it was true, however, that when I had written about famous people for Esquire, they were usually past their prime or were dealing with the downside of success. In fact, I had contemplated writing more about obscurity and failure when I began meeting with Tina Brown, but, assuming that nothing would be of less interest to her, I hesitated discussing it. But I hesitated, too, about becoming one of her contractual writers, thinking that it was not a good idea at the age of 61 to do what I might have already done better when 30 years younger. Also, I was motivated by the notion that I might rise above my state of indecision and discontent by writing about other peoples discontent and despair, and I believed that I should do so immediately and light-heartedly in a short book that might be my homage to George Orwell’s “Down and Out,” my own called “Profiles in Discouragement” or “The Loser’s Guide to Living.” It would deal with failure, perseverance and more failure. Not an exhilarating subject for a publisher, obviously, but I thought that with so many books in the marketplace dealing with success and how to get rich and how to win, it might be instructive to read something about people who had perhaps developed a unique talent for losing, for running businesses into the ground or for behaving in ways that inevitably led to foreclosures and bankruptcies, marital separations and divorces, misdemeanors and felonies.

Among the people that I had been reading about in the press the past summer were a pair of individuals that Time magazine identified as “America’s most estranged couple”—John and Lorena Bobbitt, whose incompatibility had reached epic proportions early one June morning in 1993 when, after an evening of heavy drinking on his part, followed by the alleged raping of his wife, she had retaliated by climbing out of bed, getting a kitchen knife and, while he slept, slicing off most of his penis. Since I was already engrossed in the aforementioned subject of losers, and since few people represented the subject with the distinction of the 26-year-old former U.S. Marine named John Bobbitt—who, after losing contact with his male organ for two hours, had perhaps lost the pleasure of its full use forever, despite his surgeons’ best efforts in reattaching it—I was eager to meet with him before I attempted to interview his impetuous 24-year-old wife, Lorena. But my interest in her increased after I learned that, although she had been born in Ecuador and been reared in Venezuela, Lorena (née Gallo) Bobbitt claimed that part of her family’s ancestry was rooted in southern Italy.

She had cut off two-thirds of her husband’s penis early Wednesday morning, June 23, 1993. She did it shortly after 4:30 a.m., using a 12-inch kitchen knife that she had carried into the bedroom of their apartment in Manassas,Va., a community of 28,000, located about 30 miles west of Washington, D.C. She later hurled the penis—having unintentionally kept it in her left hand as she ran from the apartment and drove off in her car—out the window of the car onto the grassy edge of a country road. Had it not been recovered there one hour and 45 minutes later by the police, who promptly delivered it (packed in ice) to its owTner and his doctors at the hospital, it might have been devoured by field mice or taken into the next county by a hungry, high-flying scavenger bird.

Although the penis-cutting story was at once big news in and around the Washington area, it had for some reason not gotten much early attention in the New York press, and thus I had been unaware of it until 20 days after its occurrence. I first read about it on an inside page of the July 13 Times, in a column in the “Science” section written by the newspapers medical specialist, Dr. Lawrence K. Altman. The column concentrated on the surgical skills employed in Manassas on June 23 by the two surgeons who had labored in an operating room for more than nine hours, often peering through microscopes as they slowly proceeded to reattach, stitch by stitch, the tiny torn tissues and the vessels of John Bobbitt ‘s much-abused penis. A male friend of John Bobbitt had driven him to the hospital and escorted him into the emergency ward at 5:03 a.m. The medical personnel who witnessed Bobbitt’s arrival were surprised that he had not already bled to death. Dr. Airman’s column in the Times reported that the patient had walked in with a bloody sheet wrapped around his hand, which was covering his groin, and that the “two main arteries and a vein that carry most of the blood to and from the penis had gone into spasm spontaneously, and a large blood clot quickly formed over the stump.” The urological surgeon and the plastic surgeon who had been awakened at their homes and were urgently summoned to the hospital to work together on the penile operation were, respectively, Dr. James T. Sehn and Dr. David E. Berman. Dr. Sehn got there first, and he was shocked as he surveyed Bobbitt’s condition at bedside. In the Times, Dr. Sehn was quoted as recalling, “It was a horrific sight. He was on his back, and there was just a clot left for wThere there should have been a penis.” Since the police had not yet found the Bobbitt penis as Dr. Sehn and his colleague Dr. Berman had begun their preoperative procedures, and since it was then anyone’s guess if the penis would ever be found, the surgeons were forced to consider, in the interest of the patient’s survival, stitching him back together without a penis. “The surgeons would sew the stump closed in the type of procedure that is done for cancer of the penis,” the Altman column explained. “After such an operation, a man urinates sitting down.” Although this turned out to be unnecessary— thanks to a ferret-eyed police sergeant who spotted the penis in a clump of weeds at ó:15 a.m. and had it delivered posthaste to the hospital—there was no guarantee that Bobbitt would ever again attain a full erection. “Because the nerves were cut, the man at present has no sensation in the reattached portion of the penis,” Altman reported. “But his doctors said prospects for the return of sensation are good.”

I was amazed by the story. I reread it a few times. If the optimism expressed by Bobbitt’s surgeons did not entirely fulfill itself, I wondered, what sort of life lay ahead for this 26-year-old one-time warrior? Would he be banished hereafter from the macho world that he had probably identified with when he had enlisted in the Marine Corps? Would his wife, who had justified her act to the police as a proper payback for his habitually improper behavior toward her, now earn plaudits from within the battered women’s lobby or win widespread admiration from multitudes of miserably married wives who might ultimately elevate her bloody deed to head-on-the-plat-ter Holofernes status?

Even before Lorena Bobbitt had done what she had done, the media had been giving much attention to the issue of male attitude and conduct toward women. There had been many stories about Sen. Robert Packwood, accused of harassing 26 women. There had been the congressional hearings on television focusing upon Anita Hill’s allegations against Clarence Thomas. There had been the U.S. Navy’s sex scandal, known as “Tailhook,” and several other reports about American military men, including senior officers, who were facing charges of sexual impropriety toward their female colleagues in the service and toward civilian women, as well. Civilian feelings of patriotism toward the military were not at a high point at this time, it seemed to me, but perhaps this was understandable. Had these times been different, had America in the early 1990s been dedicated to defending itself against threatening foreign forces rather than to demilitarizing itself within a secure and stable peacetime economy, then there might not have been the federal cutbacks that prevented such grunts as John Bobbitt from re-enlisting and which eventually led to his becoming, via his wife’s knife, a battle-scarred veteran of the domestic front. Lorena Bobbitt s marital frustrations, as her testimony to law-enforcement authorities would soon make clear, had peaked after her husband had been released from the Marine Corps in 1991. Although she earned all that she could as a nail sculptress in a Virginia shopping mall, her husband proceeded to lose, or to lose interest in, one job after another. He had failed to retain such positions as a furniture mover, a landscape laborer, a taxi driver, a cargo unloader at a trucking depot, a barroom bouncer, a 7-Eleven counter clerk and a waiter in a restaurant located near the highly mortgaged home that the Bobbitts occupied for less than a year between 1990 and 1991. One of John Bobbitts difficulties as a waiter was his slowness in operating the restaurants computerized menu screen, which transmitted the customers’ requests in the dining room to the printer in the kitchen. In any case, after he had been released from the regimentation and the predictable income of military employment, he proved to be insufficiently helpful to his wife in paying their bills. Still, I thought that losing part of his penis was a heavy price to pay under any circumstances, and I could not help feeling sympathy and compassion for this young man, nor could I avoid thinking about the many men whom I had read about or heard about whose genitals had been victimized by terrifying experiences, either deliberately inflicted upon them or due to other reasons.

I thought about the war-wounded and castrated Jake Barnes in Hemingway’s novel “The Sun Also Rises’’ and the character in Hemingway’s story “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” who takes a razor blade to his penis in the interest of abating his sexual urges. In the John Irving novel “The World According to Garp,” a married woman unwittingly bites off her lover s penis while fellating him one evening in the front seat of an automobile that is parked in her driveway and that is rear-ended unintentionally when her carelessly driving husband returns home. The African writer Bessie Head wrote a story, years ago, in which a woman cuts off the penis of an acquaintance who had persistently preyed upon her. Ms. magazine would later reprint this story. And in Emile Zola’s 1885 novel, “Germinal,” a group of French women vent their rage during a workers’ riot by pouncing upon the dead body of a loathed ex-shopkeeper, Monsieur Maigrat, and after dismembering him, they parade around town with his penis on a pike. In Thailand, during the 1970s, there was a real-life situation in which nearly 100 women took vengeance upon their philandering husbands by cutting off their penises at night. Dr. Altman had mentioned this in his Times column, adding that “reat-tachments were tried in about 18 cases, with mostly poor results.” I had read elsewhere about an episode that took place in Tokyo many years ago—a woman strangled her lover, then emasculated him—and was subsequently cited as inspirational in the creation of the critically acclaimed 1976 Japanese film “In the Realm of the Senses.”

While I was aware that in the annals of fact and fiction I was recalling relatively few of the myriad instances in which a penis is objectified, I could not imagine anyone surpassing the efforts of the late English author D.H. Lawrence in describing the vagaries and vicissitudes of the male organ in ways that are at once wise, explicit and unblushing. I am referring to Lawrences 10th and final novel, “Lady Chatterley s Lover,” which he completed in 1928. It tells the story of the sexually desirable Lady Chatterley and her impotent husband (paralyzed while serving on a French battlefield during World War I) and her husband s virile gamekeeper, who resides on the couple’s estate. The gamekeeper not only gratifies Lady Chatterley during her furtive visits but also remains with her after she becomes pregnant and leaves her husband, her home and her social class.

This work, which Lawrence himself called a “phallic novel,” was quickly banned as obscene in his homeland and also in the United States and other nations. One critic in England referred to it as “the most evil outpouring that has ever besmirched the literature of our country. The sewers of French pornography would be dragged in vain to find a parallel in beastliness.”

He was ashamed to turn to her, because of his aroused nakedness. He caught his shirt off the floor, and held it to him, coming to her.

“No!” she said, still holding out her beautiful slim arms from her drooping breasts. “Let me see you!”

He dropped the shirt and stood still, looking towards her. The sun through the low window sent in a beam that lit up his thighs and slim belly, and the erect phallus rising darkish and hot-looking from the little cloud of vivid gold-red hair. She was startled and afraid.

“How strange!” she said slowly. “How strange he stands there! So big! and so dark and cock-sure! Is he like that?”

The man looked down. ...

“So proud!” she murmured, uneasy. “And so lordly! … But he’s lovely, really. Like another being. …”

“Lie down!” he said. “Lie down! Let me come!”

He was in a hurry now.

And afterwards, when they had been quite still, the woman had to uncover the man again. …

“And now lies tiny, and soft like a little bud of life!” she said, taking the soft, small penis in her hand. ... “And how lovely your hair is here! quite, quite different!”

“That’s John Tltomas’ hair, not mine!” he said.

“John Thomas! John Thomas!” and she quickly kissed the soft penis, that was beginning to stir again.

it was in Italy that Lawrence found printers who would set his manuscript into type. They were unable to read English, but after he verbally explained to them what Lady Chatterley and her lover were described as doing in the novels bedroom scenes, one of the printers remarked offhandedly, “We do it every day” The first few thousand copies of this underground edition (which would soon be smuggled into England, the United States and elsewhere) were printed on creamy, hand-rolled Italian paper and were finely bound and inscribed by the author. These editions would be followed by a variety of pirated imprints. Some were cheaply bound reproductions that had been copied photographically and contained printed pages that were unfocused. Others were black-colored hardcover volumes that were designed to resemble hymnbooks or Bibles, and these were usually more expensive than the original $10 Italian edition that Lawrence had autographed two years before his death in 1930.

Nearly 30 years would pass before his controversial novel could be sold legally in the United States. In 1959, a federal judge, influenced by the less restrictive definition of obscenity that the Supreme Court had rendered two years earlier in the case of Roth v. United States (Samuel Roth being an imprisoned New York pornographer who had long trafficked in the sale of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and other lawfully forbidden books), rescinded the ban against Lawrences last work. But the liberation of the novel had actually been initiated by the courtroom efforts of a New York publisher, Grove Press, which had filed and won its case against the U.S. post office, which until then had assumed broad authority in banning “dirty” books and other objectionable materials from being mailed in America. The courtroom triumph of Grove Press was immediately celebrated by advocates of literary freedom as a national victory against censorship and an affirmation of the First Amendment.

I was assigned to cover this news story in 1959 as a staff member of the Times, and after the federal judge’s announcement, I attended a party at the editorial offices of Grove Press, where all the guests received free copies of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” after which I read it for the first time. In later years, I reread it twice, and in 1980,1 summarized its literary history in a chapter of my book uThy Neighbor’s Wife,” which included my personal appreciation and appraisal of D.H. Lawrence’s achievement:

Despite its adulterous theme, Lawrence was convinced that he had written an affirmative hook about physical love, one that might help to liberate the puritanical mind from the terror of the body,” He believed that centuries of obfuscation had left the mind unevolved, incapable of having a “proper reverence for sex and a proper awe of the body’s strange experience”; and so he created in Lady Chatterley a sexually awakened

heroine who dated to remove the fig leaf from her lover’s loins and examine the mystery of masculinity.

While it has long been accepted as the prerogative of both artists and pornographers to expose the naked female, the phallus has usually been obscured or airbntshed and never revealed when erect; but it was Lawrence’s intention to write a “phallic novel,” and often in the book Lady Chatterley focuses entirely on her lover’s penis, strokes it with her fingers, caresses it with her breasts; she touches it with her lips, she holds it in her hands and watches it grow, she reaches underneath to fondle the testicles and feel their strange soft weight; and as her wonderment is described by Lawrence, thousands of male readers of the novel undoubtedly felt their own sexual stirring and imagined the pleasure of Lady Chatterley’s cool touch on their warm tumescent organs and experienced through masturbation the vicarious thrill of being her lover.

Since masturbation is what erotic writing so often leads to, that was reason enough to make Lawrence’s novel controversial; but in addition, through the character of the gamekeeper, Lawrence probes the sensitivity and psychological detachment that man often feels toward his penisit does indeed seem to have a will of its own, an ego beyond its size, and is frequently embarrassing because of its needs, infatuations and unpredictable nature. Men sometimes feel that their penis controls them, leads them astray, causes them to beg favors at night from women whose names they prefer to forget in the morning. Whether insatiable or insecure, it demands constant proof of its potency, introducing into a man’s life unwanted complications and frequent rejection. Sensitive but resilient, equally available during the day or night with a minimum of coaxing, it has performed purposefully if not always skillfully for an eternity of centuries, endlessly searching, sensing, expanding, probing, penetrating, throbbing, wilting and wanting more. Never concealing its prurient interest, it is man’s most honest organ.

It is also symbolic of masculine imperfection. It is unbalanced, asymmetrical, droopy, often ugly. To display it in public is “indecent exposure. “ It is very vulnerable even when made of stone, and the museums of the world are filled with Herculean figures brandishing penises that are chipped, clipped or completely chopped off The only undamaged penises seem to be the disproportionately small ones created perhaps by sculptors not wishing to intimidate the undersize organs of their patrons. ...

Each day the penis is prey to sexual sights in the street, in stores, offices, on advertising billboards and television commercialsthere is the leering look of a blonde model squeezing cream out of a tube; the nipples imprinted against the silk blouse of a travel agency receptionist; the bevy of buttocks in tight jeans ascending a department store’s escalator; the perfumed aroma emanating from the cosmetics counter: musk made from the genitals of one animal to arouse another.The city offers a modern version of a tribal fertility dance, a sexual safari, and many men feel the pressure of having to repeatedly prove their instinct as hunters. Tlie penis, often regarded as a weapon, is also a burden, the male curse. It has made some men restless roues, voyeurs, flashers, rapists. [I]ts profligacy in high places has provoked political scandals and collapsed governments. Unhappy with it, a few men have chosen to rid themselves of it. But most men, like the gamekeeper, admit that they cannot deliberately kill it. While it may typify, in Lawrence’s words, the <(terror of the body¦} it is nevertheless rooted in a man’s soul, and without its potency, he cannot truly live. Lacking it, Lord Chatterley lost his lady to a social inferior. ...

I had often wanted to write more about the penis since completing “Thy Neighbor’s Wife,” but until I had read Dr. Altman’s column about John Bobbitt, I did not see an opportunity. Now I thought about Tina Brown and how I might persuade her to send me to Manassas,Va., to represent The New Yorker in the forthcoming courtroom appearances of John and Lorena Bobbitt. There would be two separate trials in the presence of juries. In one trial, Lorena would have to defend herself against the county prosecutor’s charge that she was guilty of “malicious wounding.” In the other trial, the same prosecutor would present Lorena’s position that her husband was guilty of “marital sexual abuse.” But John Bobbitt’s penis would also be on trial, it seemed to me, and I hoped that these adjudications in Manassas would help to clarify what I thought was still unclear despite all the media coverage of the so-called Gender Wars. In this time of expanding women’s rights and demands, was a married man’s penis entitled to no privilege whatsoever within the lawful state of matrimony? Or, to explore the question further: Did a married man s penis enjoy any legal leeway or sexual concessions that might be denied rightfully to the penis of a young bachelor or an older divorced individual who had not remarried? If one’s marital situation was not relevant to this question, then from the perspective of a penis, it might be fair to ask, Why get hitched in the first place? Why go through the trouble of hiring a justice of the peace and agree to be guided by the restrictive measures of the marital code and still run the risk of being sliced off in bed by a wife’s kitchen knife and then tossed out of her car into the weeds?

The penises of married men were treated far better, I believed, during the era of my early adulthood in mid-20th-century America. Indeed, most men of my generation recognized many benefits in marriage, not the least being the almost effortless accessibility and the abundance of what the marriage manuals then preferred to call “coitus” which under normal circumstances was readily and conveniently available within one’s own home and usually within an arm’s reach at most hours of the day and night—except when it wasn’t. It would be misleading, I must admit, to convey the impression that husbands in the 1950s assumed sex-on-demand status while dwelling in close quarters with a spouse. It was understood in those days, as I guess it has been understood since the time when couples lived together in caves, that a woman possessed the irrefutable right to be ailing from a “headache” or to be otherwise excused from participating, now and then, in sexual intimacies with her mate. But I do not recall any woman of my generation ever lodging a litigious complaint of “marital sexual abuse” against her husband while she was willingly residing with him. And yet this is exactly what Lorena Bobbitt had done. Moreover, as she herself acknowledged to law-enforcement authorities, she had partaken in consensual lovemaking with her husband in their bedroom just two days before he had allegedly committed acts of “marital sexual abuse,” prompting her to remove his penis.

In singling out Lorena Bobbitt’s response to what she deemed to be her husbands unpardonable behavior, I am not discounting the probability that many women of my generation had also been frequent victims of “marital sexual abuse”—but the women of my day, as I have indicated, would not have been inclined to publicize it. Wives rarely discussed their private lives with anyone back then, and it was also tacitly understood that women of high moral character did not even think much about sex. Men often characterized such women as “frigid.” This word frigid is not in the lexicon of the 1990s, but it was commonly used a generation ago, and it was not necessarily meant to be pejorative. A frigid woman was imagined by men to be a wholesome, virginal creature on the verge of becoming erotically aroused by the very men who were doing the imagining. Such women were more highly valued as trustworthy potential spouses than were those relatively “loose” women who had been cheerleaders in high school and dated star athletes or who, later in life, tried to escape convention by working as airline stewardesses. Since sexual favors were less casually distributed by the bachelor girls of the pre-Pill 1950s than would be the case with the jeunes filles of the next generation, it was not uncommon for mid-20th-century men to welcome the prospect of marriage as a surcease to their unmet nightly needs, to their miscalculations and unrequited flirtations, and to the physical discomforts of having sex with their lovers in the seats of cars parked in the woodlands (while mosquitoes buzzed about, and Peeping Toms watched from the trees, and the patrolling policemen occasionally knocked on windshields while frowning within the glare of their upheld flashlights). Matrimony was supposed to mark the end of such gruesome experiences for unwed couples. It was supposed to offer them an emancipating alternative to borrowing and using friends’ apartments as love nests, and to arranging amorous meetings in third-rate hotels and motels—places where no self-respecting libidinous male was likely to sign his real name in the registration book.

The nom de plume that I sometimes used when registering in such hotels and motels on those occasions when I could convince my college sweetheart to accompany me overnight to attend football games or other events taking place far from the campus was “Johnny LindelT—my favorite baseball player for the mid-1940s New York Yankees. He had also been the first player to ever give me an autograph, doing so when I was 12 and traveled daily by trolley to watch the Yankees’ spring-training activities held in 1944 and 1945 in Atlantic City. I believe that I scribbled Johnny LindelTs name, together with various made-up addresses, five or six times on registration forms during the two-year period of my Alabama romance.

I recall that, some years later, while I was in the Army and stationed at Fort Knox, Ky., I once used the name of another Yankee player, jerry Coleman, on the registration card of a motel near the Louisville airport, where I was spending the night with a stewardess I had met earlier on the flight from New York. Although I admired jerry Coleman’s athletic abilities, I had never sought his autograph, nor had I ever met him personally until he had retired from the game and was working as a sports broadcaster, it was at an Old Timers game at Yankee Stadium during the middle or late 1960s that someone had introduced’ us, and I impulsively decided to tell Coleman about what I had done in Louisville. I thought he might be amused. But after hearing my story; his lips suddenly tightened, his face reddened, and, saying nothing, he turned and walked away from me. I would never see him again. I was surprised and sorry about what had happened, but at the time, I had not chased after him and attempted to apologize because I did not exactly know what had aggravated him. It occurred to me that Coleman’s reaction was perhaps traceable to how he had been conditioned to feel as a ballplayer whenever a teammate had borrowed his favorite bat and hit a home run. Or maybe Coleman felt that my registering under his name had somehow put his personal reputation at risk, although this made little sense to me, because his name was very common—there were surely many similarly named men listed in every metropolitan telephone directory in America—and I could not understand why my belated confession about what I had done in Louisville during the mid-1950s would bother Coleman when I told him about it 10 or 15 years later.

Whatever Coleman’s reservations were, this was a point in time when a majority of Americans were enjoying, and were insisting that they were entitled to enjoy, unprecedented access to freedoms and choices pertaining to how they conducted their private lives and how they exercised their constitutional rights within public spaces and accommodations. These were the years when the civil rights marchers were popularizing “We Shall Overcome,” and when the anti-Vietnam War demonstrators were advocating “Make love, not war” and when the laws and moral standards of the nation were changing to such a degree that what had been prosecutorial and socially abhorrent in the not-so-distant past was now lawful and being longed for and being indulged in by masses of people. There were the bra-burning rallies of liberated women, the frontal nudity of male and female dancers performing together on the stages of legitimate theaters, and the fact that nightclub comedians could get away with using words that in the ‘50s would have hastened Lenny Bruce into handcuffs. It was during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s that countless coeds helped to pay for their college tuitions and their supplies of marijuana by working in massage parlors, places where male patrons could remove all of their clothing and, uncovered by towels, recline on their backs and receive what was understood to be the spêcialité de la maison—a hand job or what the parlors’ advertising brochures more discreetly described as “manual relief.” These were boon times for penises from coast to coast.

But not all the permissiveness of this period would be accepted as desirable social behavior by younger Americans in the decades that followed. “When America is not fighting a war, the puritanical desire to punish people has to be let out at home,” wrote the novelist Joyce Carol Oates, and I accepted this as one possible explanation for the burgeoning spirit of rectitude and correctness that seemed to pervade much of the country from the 1980s into the 1990s. This restrictive trend might also have reflected a newer generation s reaction against the perceived excesses of their parents’ time—the drugs, the sex, the demonstrativeness, the dropping out. Or maybe it expressed, as well, a newer generation’s fears and concerns about the well-publicized warnings of the existence of genital herpes and AIDS. It was a time when feminist activists campaigned against pornography as being degrading to women and when police departments’ morals squads raided businesses in the sex industry that catered almost exclusively to men—strip clubs, peep shows and massage parlors. In 1972, there had been at least 30 massage parlors operating openly along the thoroughfares of New York City—and nearly equal numbers in Los Angeles and some other major cities; but by 1992, whether I was on the East Coast or the West Coast or traveling elsewhere within the country, I could not find a single one. These were no longer boon times for peruses.

Women’s studies programs proliferated on college campuses and were weU represented by female faculty members who ridiculed Sigmund Freud’s concepts about penis envy,Jacques Lacan’s postulations about the penis as a “universal signifier” and the theories of biologists and brain specialists who suggested that physical differences between men and women, more often than not, produced sexually identifiable patterns of behavior. Such thinking was dismissed by most women as prejudicial, phallocentric and sexist, and thus linguistic adjustments were made to conform to the new sense of correctness: Chairman became chairperson, and sex became gender. With increasing frequency, women’s hair was now seen under the hard hats of construction crews, the caps of police officers, the helmets of combat soldiers. The designers of military apparel were contemplating the creation of uniforms that would allow female troops in the field to urinate standing up. The stylishly uniformed young airline stewardesses who had once filled the friendly skies with the aura of their allure had now been replaced along the aisles of airplanes by gender-blended “flight attendants” who were employed more on the basis of how well they did the job than on how well they looked when doing it. Much of what had been described as masculine was now machismo and perhaps abusive. With so many highly educated and motivated women currently established in the legal profession as prosecutors and judges, it was unlikely that untoward male behavior would ever again be excused, or made light of, under the old adage that sometimes “Boys wiU be boys.” And with younger women joining their male contemporaries as editors and reporters in the print media and television news departments, there was heightened and unrelenting coverage of stories that an earlier generation of primarily white male editors would have dismissed or downplayed as gossip, innuendo or too difficult to prove. The extramarital interests of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King,Jr., had not been seen as headline material by the mainstream editors of the ‘60s. These editors generally believed that individuals of such prominence were entitled to a life of privacy as long as it did not interfere with their effectiveness as leaders—and editors who thought otherwise usually worked for one of the trashier tabloids. But what separated the journalistic judgment of mainstream editors from that of their sensationalist colleagues was not always discernible in the 1990s. Much of what had been “scandal” was now “social history,” and the practitioners of journalism high and low were equally aggressive in pursuing stories about the prowlings of politicians and high-profile cases dealing with sexual harassment, acquaintance rape, date rape and marital rape.

I had never read about marital rape until I came across Dr. Altman’s article in the Times about the Bobbitt couple, and since I was having lunch that day with Tina Brown and assumed that she had also read it and would want to know more about the incident and how it would be resolved in court, I added this story idea to the list of proposals that I intended to discuss with her. But after I had joined her at her table at the Royalton Hotel and we had made our selections from the menu and I had asked about her reaction to the piece, she replied, “I haven’t had a chance to get through the paper yet. What’s it about?”

“It’s about a man whose penis was sliced off by his wife after he’d supposedly raped her and about the two surgeons who operated on him and sewed his penis back together.”

“This is making me sick,” said Tina Brown.

“It’s all in today’s Times,” I said, urging her to read it when she returned to her office. I also suggested that it might be the basis of a major article in The New Yorker because it showed how hostile some women were capable of becoming and it escalated the already heated debate about the Gender Wars—and, furthermore, it would remind men about the vulnerability of their penises.

“Oh, please,” Tina Brown interrupted, pushing aside her salad, “this is really making me sick.”

So I dropped the subject, and we discussed other ideas during the duration of our lunch. But on the following morning, I faxed her a letter:

Dear Tina:

Thanks for the wonderful lunch yesterday, and I’ll have more to say early this week on the ideas we discussed. One of those ideasthe one that twice turned your stomachcontinues to fascinate me. This is the tale about the angry wife who severed her husband’s penis. Did you read that on C3 of the Tuesday Times?

Yesterday we discussed the anger that prevails between men and women, a difference of views that smolders in the aftermath of the Anita Hill-Clarence Tìtomas clash. This latest incident involving the penis-cut-ting wife (a manicurist by trade) against her husband (an ex-Marine!) is a story I’d very much like to pursue. A trial is coming up this summer, and I’d like to cover that for The New Yorker as part of the pieceif I can convince you I have an interesting approach.

This case promises to be a forum for much of the wrath exuding from American bedrooms these days, and with me doing the reporting and uniting, I think it can be dealt with in a dignified and literary manner, while at the same time capturing all the sordid and fascinating details that characterized the work Capote did for The New Yorker in “In Cold Blood,”

A day later, Tina Brown replied:

Dear Gay,

OK, you’re on for the penis chopper. I took a penis poll in the office, and you were absolutely rightmen groaned and writhed and mumbled about their atavistic fears. The trial would be phenomenal for you since it so drastically dramatizes, as you say, the particularly violent mood of the sex war. If the piece would be raising these bigger issues, it does become much more, and a short book besides. I’m excited. … Fm thrilled to be working with you,

Best, Tina

Beginning in mid-July 1993, I commuted regularly between New York and Manassas,Va., interviewing dozens of people who were directly or tangentially connected to the Bobbitt story: the couple’s lawyers, their doctors, their media advisers, their relatives, their friends, their neighbors and co-workers—Lorena’s female associates in the nail-cutting salon and John’s cargo-loading buddies who had been working with him at the depot on the day before his misfortune and who were known in the trucking trade as “lumpers.” I also interviewed the police sergeant who had discovered John s penis in the weeds, the female police officer who found the bloody knife that Lorena had tossed into a trash bin and the detective who was overseeing the investigation.

Shortly after 5:00 a.m., as Police Officer David Sawyer was slowly driving his patrol car through a wide street in the historic section of Old Town Manassas, passing a gazebo and a bronze plaque marking this as a Civil War battle area, he heard himself being summoned aloud by his identity number (169) on the police radio and was told to go at once to Prince William County hospital to interview and file a report on a “male assault victim” who was currently undergoing treatment there.

But after Officer Sawyer had arrived in the emergency room and then began looking around, expecting to find what he usually found when searching for an “assault victim”—a moaning patient with a lacerated face, puffy eyes and a bandaged head—he saw instead a handsome and unmarked young man who, seated calmly with a white sheet draped over his shoulders and midsection, was chatting with a male medical assistant and a female nurse as they went about checking his blood pressure and pulse.

“Where’s my victim?” Officer Sawyer asked them.

“This is him,” said the medical assistant, nodding toward Bobbitt.

“What s wrong with him?”

“His wife cut off his penis,” the nurse said matter-of-factly.

Misunderstanding her—thinking she’d said pinkie instead of penis—Sawyer looked at Bobbitt’s right hand, then his left, and replied, “His pinkie looks fine to me.”

“No penis” said the nurse.

Sawyer felt a sudden pang in his groin. Then, turning to the male assistant, he said, “Show me the injury.”

The assistant lifted up the sheet, and after Sawyer had gotten a mere glimpse of the damage, he turned away. “I nearly vomited,” he later told me. After the assistant had put the sheet back over Bobbitt’s body, Sawyer asked him to remove it once more. Sawyer was not pleased by his instinctive reaction a moment earlier. “I regrouped, looked at it again, was more professional this time” He asked the nurse to let him borrow a Polaroid camera, and he proceeded to take eight photographs of Bobbitt’s condition to be included in the police report. Then he looked squarely into the eyes of John Bobbitt, searching for some clue that might explain the latter’s apparent calm in the aftermath of this unspeakable situation, and he asked softly, “What happened?”

“All I can remember is I woke up in pain and saw my wife running out of the room,” Bobbitt said, “and I really can’t believe this happened, can’t believe this happened. …”

Sawyer saw this as a crime fraught with legal complications and pitfalls for those involved in the investigation. It was what the police called a “red ball” case. It was a “he said/she said” domestic Donnybrook that the media would feed upon, that would swamp the police department with paperwork, that would demand courtroom testimony in the presence of competing attorneys and that would surely threaten the careers of any law-enforcement officers who overlooked or misinterpreted even a tiny detail. Sawyer knew that a search warrant would be immediately necessary before the police could enter the victim’s apartment, and so he took out his notepad and asked Bobbitt where the cutting had occurred. Bobbitt gave his address: 8174 Peakwrood Court, Apartment 5, on the second floor, overlooking the parking lot. Sawyer knew exactly where this was, and he felt a sense of relief. The crime had not been committed in his jurisdiction! Sawyer was with the Manassas city police department, whereas Bobbitt’s apartment building was technically across the city line and was covered by the county’s police department. While the city of Manassas was part of Prince William County, it nevertheless operated independently, and, therefore, Sawyer should not have been sent to the hospital in the first place.

Meanwhile, two other police officers from the city had arrived to join Sawyer at the hospital. Sawyer had already informed his superiors by radio that the crime had occurred in county territory and had provided the address, but Sawyer and his two colleagues remained ready to drive to the apartment and begin searching for the penis if they were told to do so.

“Officers, we need that penis!” one of the nurses reminded them. “The surgeons will be here any minute to start operating.”

Moments later, a radio message came to Sawyer and his fellow officers from city headquarters: “Do not go to the Bobbitt apartment; let the county police go—it’s a county problem.” A police dispatcher within the city’s headquarters, Robert Weaver, was at this time communicating via radio with the police dispatcher within county headquarters, Carolyn Walls:

Weaver: Need an officer to respond ASAP to go out to pick up some property that [the patient] needs to have immediately. … It’s pretty nasty.

Walls: Has he lost a part of his body?

Weaver: Uh, you can’t really say over the radio, but …

Walls: OK, but I mean, is it a thing?

Weaver: Well … they have to get that once they get out there.

Walls: OK. All right. We have someone en route.

Weaver: How long for an officer to get there?

Walls: Fifteen minutes.

Weaver: You know how this thing about being in the city, being in the county …


Weaver: It’s kind of crazy, but no problem. …

Walls: Yeah.

After Weaver had hung up, Walls received a second call from the city’s police force, this time from Sgt. Beth Weden. “You might want to send out a couple [of officers to the apartment],” Weden suggested, and she was less restrained than the dispatcher Robert Weaver had been in describing Bobbitt’s injury. “This man’s got his penis all cut off,” Weden told Carolyn Walls, “and the hospital needs it ASAP to try and salvage this man’s dignity.”

As three county officers, plus a rescue squad with an ambulance, motored toward the Bobbitts’ apartment, hoping to retrieve the penis, three other county officers arrived at Prince William County hospital to relieve from duty the three city officers who had arrived earlier. The city officers greeted them at the emergency entrance, and one city cop announced with a grin, “Oh, do we have a case for you guys! Yes, you’ve got a victim inside, a Mr. Less. His first name is Richard. You can call him Dick. Dick Less … ha-ha.”

One of the newly arrived county officers was Cecil Deane, who had been in the hospital a few hours earlier, interrogating the Laotian motorcycle rider Khone, who had sustained injuries in an accident. Cecil Deane was now here for the county police to take photographs of Bobbitt’s diminished penis. After the medical assistant had lifted the sheet that Bobbitt had been wearing, and just before Deane had raised the 33 mm Canon and focused it down toward the patient’s groin area, he made eye contact with Bobbitt and then asked Bobbitt a question he knew was inane, but he asked it anyway: “How you doing?”

Shrugging and forcing a smile, Bobbitt replied, “Be careful who you date.”

While Cecil Deane was taking pictures, his fellow officer Dan Harris was getting permission from Bobbitt to investigate the apartment. Having obtained the key from Bobbitts friend Robert Johnston, Dan Harris left the emergency room and went outside to hand the key over to Officer John Tillman, who was waiting in a patrol car. Tillman then drove with it a few miles to the Bobbitt apartment, where, joined by two other colleagues, who had been waiting for him in the parking lot, he unlocked the door and began the search for the missing part of the penis.

Stepping around the bloodstains on the beige carpet in the living room and trying to avoid rubbing against the blood smears on the walls, Tillman led the way into the bedroom and began to shake out the sheets, thinking that this was the most likely place to find what he was looking for. But no such luck. Then he and the others looked under the bed, around the floor and lifted up the nightstand. Then they went into the kitchenette, expecting, hoping, to find a little piece of flesh near the knife rack on the counter. One of the rescue workers, Mike Perry, ran his hand through the water in the bottom of the washing machine. The others were now in the bathroom, looking in the toilet, in the trash basket, under the sink.

“Find anything yet?” came the radio query from Sgt. William Hurley, who was downstairs in his car, parked below the porch.

“Not yet,” said Officer Tillman.

“Keep looking,” said Sgt. Hurley.

Tillman and the others continued for another five minutes, searching through the closet, the bureau drawers, under the sofa bed.

“It’s just not here,” Tillman declared to Hurley.

“OK, then,” said Hurley, “come on down, and let’s look around in the shrubs and parking lot.”

It was getting close to 6 a.m. as the men came running down the staircase and began exploring the grounds around the building with the aid of their flashlights. It was then that a 70-year-old tenant named Ella Jones poked her head outside the front door of her ground-floor apartment and called out to Hurley: “Good morning, Officer. What you looking for out there?”

“Oh, we’re looking for something somebody might have thrown here,” said Hurley. Then he heard his car radio blaring forth with a message: Lorena Bobbitt had just turned herself in to the county police, and she told one of the lieutenants that she had thrown the penis into the grass near the intersection of Maplewood Drive and Old Centreville Road, across the street from a 7-Eleven store. This was only a quarter of a mile from where Hurley’s car was now parked, and so he and his men were able to reassemble at the intersection within a few minutes. It was daylight now, and while the men wandered around in the fields, with their heads down and their eyes intently focused on the ground around their feet—one man was reminded of his childhood days on Easter-egg hunts—Hurley stood somewhat aloof at roadside, trying to conceal the sense of ridiculousness that he felt, along with a certain personal discomfort, at being in charge of a search party that was trying to track down a wayward penis.

Sgt. William Hurley was a shortish, compactly built, dark-haired man in his 40s. He had been a policeman for 15 years, and he was also a born-again Christian and a proper and somewhat old-fashioned individual, who disliked being around people who used blasphemous language or told dirty jokes or made smirking or mocking references to lovemaking or to sex organs. It was characteristic of him on this particular morning to refer to the missing body part as an “appendage,” and he was chagrined when he heard, over his car radio, the voice of Sgt. Beth Weden referring to Bobbitt s lost manhood in a jocular and blatant manner: “This man’s got his penis all cut off. … [Let’s] salvage this man s dignity.”

Hurley never expected to hear a cop, and certainly not a female cop, talking like this on the police radio network, perhaps broadcasting to hundreds of officers and employees of the department within the 348-square-mile radius of Prince William County. Although he had tried to make newly hired female officers feel welcome in what had once been an exclusively fraternal order, he suspected that some women believed that the best way to gain male acceptance was to emulate unacceptable male behavior. Hurley thought otherwise— which was not to say that in his younger days he had not occasionally been indiscreet and foulmouthed, an admission that he made to me during one of our interviews. But his life had changed radically since he came to know God in 1976, he explained, and as a consequence, he gradually stopped swearing, gambling, smoking, drinking and otherwise acting in ways that had caused his wife, Cheryl, to pack her bags one day and tell him that she was leaving their marriage.

But he had persuaded her to give him one more chance to reform, and he did reform, he told me, after he had met a charismatic Christian preacher who recruited him into the Reston Bible Church and inspired within him a righteous vigor that eventually caused him to quit his job as a golf pro and apply for a position as a police officer within the Prince William County correctional system. As he might have expected, the hiring officer conducted a background check and discovered that William Hurley had been arrested six times for speeding and once for reckless driving. But Hurley convinced the officer that whatever appeared on the computer screen was an out-of-date reflection of the born-again man he currently was, and so Hurley was tentatively accepted as a police recruit in July 1978. In the 15 years since then, he had justified the faith that the officer had shown in hiring him.

Hurley was now standing next to his car radio at roadside, listening to the repeated calls from the hospital staff to the dispatcher: “What’s the latest report from the search party in the field?” “How close are they to finding the penis?” “Where is it?” “Time is running out…. The doctors are in the operating room.” “The patient is waiting.” “The operation will soon begin!”

Hurley watched with his own sense of urgency as his three-man crew rummaged through the grassy intersection, searching without success for the missing appendage. So far, John Bobbitt had been separated from his penis for at least an hour and a half. Hurley wondered how much more time was available before the doctors would have to sew up John Bobbitt without it. Hurley had thought that his men would have found it easily. Bobbitt’s wife had said that she had thrown it into the grassy patch at the intersection of Maplewood Drive and Old Centreville Road, an area of only 50 square feet, and Hurley could not understand why his men had not already recovered it—unless the wife’s information was inaccurate or unless a rodent had run off with it prior to the arrival of the police.

It was now close to 6:15 a.m., and, as Hurleys radio continued to resound with the chatter being transmitted between the hospital and police headquarters, he decided to scrutinize the area himself, and so he slowly niade his way through the grassy stretch of land with his head bent low and his eyes trained downward, assuming the posture of his golf-playing days when searching for a ball that he had hit into the rough. Within a few seconds, he had spotted it, poking up through the weeds—a curl of white flesh with a reddish tip.

“Phew,” he yelled out, holding his nose. “Here it is!”

As his group hurried over to get a look at it, a female officer named Sindi Leo arrived at the intersection in her patrol car. She was a 10-year veteran of the police department, a short, robust and round-faced brunette in her 30s, known for her efficiency and self-assurance on the job and also for her forthrightness in chiding her male colleagues whenever she believed they were behaving in a chauvinistic manner. While she respected Hurley’s refined and right-minded disposition, Sindi Leo often felt when in his presence that she was being privately judged, and now, as she headed in his direction, she noticed that he was frowning at her. He really doesn’t want me here, she told herself (and later repeated to me in an interview); she also overheard him complaining in a low voice to his men: “This is why I don’t like women police officers. …” She was not entirely sure what he meant, but as she joined him and the others in the field—they were circled around the spot where the penis lay, saying nothing to one another as they gazed down upon this helpless little piece of masculine pride that had proven to be so vulnerable to a woman’s vengence—she could well understand it if her fellow officers regarded her arrival to be ill-timed. She had intruded upon a male moment.

But she also had orders to take pictures of the penis as soon as it had been found, and so, without objection from the blushing Hurley, she held up her 35 mm Nikon camera and snapped a few pictures of him pointing a finger toward the place where it had landed. After she had finished, Hurley asked that she go to the Bobbitts’ apartment and photograph the bloodstained interior and then deliver the pictures, along with the key to the apartment, to Detective Weintz at the hospital. When she did so, she saw the detective talking to Lorena Bobbitt in the presence of janna Biscutti. Weintz then directed Sindi Leo to retrieve the knife that Lorena had thrown into the refuse container in front of Janna Biscutti s nail salon in Centreville.

“You’d better hurry,” Janna called out to Sindi Leo as the latter walked toward her patrol car. “It’s Wednesday. It’s trash-collection day.”

The penis had, by this time, been lifted out of the grass by one of the rescue workers, Mike Perry (an off-duty cop who had served in the Marine Corps during the mid-1980s); Perry, accompanied by two other rescue volunteers, hopped into their ambulance and, with sirens wailing and lights whirling, drove swiftly through the early Washington-bound commuter traffic toward the hospital. Shortly before 7:00 a.m., the trio burst through the swinging doors of the rear entrance, and one of the men, pointing to the penis contained in a clear plastic bag that was held high by a partner, asked the Emergency Room doctor on duty, Dr. David M. Corcoran, who had relieved Dr. Sharpe, “Is this it?”

“I guess so,” said Dr. Corcoran. Two nurses came forward through the corridor toward Dr. Corcoran, wanting to get a glimpse of the penis, but the rescue men pushed past them into the room where John Bobbitt lay waiting, flanked by his two surgeons. One of them, Dr. James Sehn, had been there for more than a half-hour, while Dr. David E. Berman had just arrived. He had gotten there as quickly as he could, but, since his wife was then vacationing with their child at Rehoboth Beach, Del., it had been Dr. Berman’s duty to feed and walk the two family dogs before departing for the hospital. At approximately 7:30 a.m., Dr. Berman and Dr. Sehn concentrated their attentions on John Bobbitt, beginning what would be a 9.5-hour-long operation.

Hurley was now back in his office, where someone had placed near his desk an ersatz plaque made of silver foil, bearing the inscription “Awarded to Sergeant Hurley—First Place Winner of the PRT (Penis Recognition Technician) Award.” Ignoring it, Hurley sat down and wrote out his report for the daily police files. He had thought about referring to John Bobbitt’s injured body part as an “appendage” but then changed his mind, and so in his report of Wednesday, June 23,1993, he wrote:

Shortly after 5a.m.,a male subject arrived at the hospital with his penis cut off. The subject stated that his wife cut this off as he slept. Shortly after he got to the hospital, his wife called to report that she had been raped by her husband and that she cut his penis off after the rape. The wife came to the hospital. As she was in route to the hospital, the husband gave permission to search his apartment for his lost part.

We searched the apt. with Rescue to no avail. After she arrived, she told us she carried the penis to the intersection of Maplewood and Old Centreville and threw it out the window. After a short search, it was located and transported to the hospital by Rescue. As I write (7:32 a.m.), Detective Weintz is at the hospital trying to sort this whole thing out. The success of the operation that is now being performed is very questionable. …

Just when you think you’ve seen it all.

Sgt. William Hurley

About the Author

Gay Talese

Gay Talese is the author of Unto the Sons, The Kingdom and the Power, Thy Neighbor’s Wife, Fame and Obscurity and other books. A Writer’s Life, his new memoir, is forthcoming in April from Knopf.

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