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ill TEXAS Available at the following locations: Congress Avenue Booksellers 718 Congress Avenue Austin Las Manitas Avenue Cafe 211 Congress Avenue Austin Old World Bakery 814 W. 12th Street Austin The Stoneleigh P 2926 Maple Avenue Dallas Brazos Bookstore 2314 Bissonett Houston Guy’s News Stand 3700 Main Street Houston The Newstand 1101 University Lubbock Daily News & Tobacco 309-A Andrews Highway Midland Books and News 301 State Line Ave. Texarkana The Original Magazine & Bookstore 5360 W. Lovers Lane #210 Dallas The Original Magazine & Bookstore #2 11661 Preston, Suite 301 Dallas The Texas Observer 307 West 7th Street Austin server TAKING HEART By A.C. Greene New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990 222 pages, $18.95 y EARS AGO, foolishly ignoring all weather advisories and sane advice, I tried to make it across north Texas on an iced-over highway. The last thing I remember was gripping the wheel and driving very slowly, before everything disappeared and I was staring into the face of a young ambulance attendant. I’ll never forget the strange exhilaration that swept over me, as I realized that, except for a head wound, I was okay. “What are you grinning at?” the attendant asked. “I’m alive,” I said, unable to stop smiling. For the first time since childhood, I knew pure, unadulterated joy. A similar brand of joy an almost blinding happiness at being alive is at the center of Taking Heart, A.C. Greene’s first-person account of his heart transplant. The happiness that came to Greene in those first moments of consciousness after the surgery surprised him with its intensity, and in the next moment he found himself weeping with the sudden awareness of a stranger’s strong heart beating within his chest, giving him a new life and another chance. The subject matter of Taking Heart puts many people off, but there are several reasons why the reader should put aside assumptions that this is a morbid or clinical book. For one thing, a veteran storyteller, reporter, and teacher is telling the tale Greene is a columnist for The Dallas Morning News and the author of 15 books and knows the value of self-deprecating humor and wry commentary. Moreover, Greene provides us with some oddly comforting truths as he explores that uncomfortable territory between life and death. It is, as he says, a “survivor’s journal,” that illuminates how little we know about our bodies, our spirits, and our own mortality, and how much we can learn, if we are “stronghearted.” ULTIMATELY, this is a book about the life force and the struggle to survive. The emotion is tightly reined in, but it’s there, lurking underneath Greene’s straightforward prose, making for an inspiring not depressing reading experience. Greene unflinchingly conveys the reality of it all: To survive, you have to be willing to be injected, scanned, and Diana Claitor is a Texas freelance writer who has recently moved to Washington, D.C. catheterized and you have to deal with despair. Not to mention putting up with specious comments from well-meaning fools who’ve never faced death. Calmly, Greene reasons with those horrified by the total dependence on pills after a transplant. “Someone says, ‘You’ll be doing this the rest of your life. You’ll have to do this the rest of your life!’ So what? … be taking medicine the rest of my life? At least there is the rest of my life.” The veteran Texas author knows when to change gears, alternating between his personal journal, a history of transplant medicine, the ethics of “harvesting” organs, and general philosophizing. In one chapter, he touches on the role our heart plays in our psyche, art, and literature, discussing its significance in everything from The Wizard of Oz to the Bible, and its overwhelming importance to a man’s self-image. Greene’s belief that men are more disturbed by the stigma of “faintheartedness” than women doesn’t strike me as valid, but men suffer so much more from heart problems than women that the point is difficult to dispute and not that crucial. Taking Heart is useful as a how-to book, a layman’s guide to coping with the daunting and somewhat dehumanizing side of modern medicine. Greene’s skill as a teacher makes for clear explanations and no-nonsense descriptions that demystify many of the procedures that can be so overwhelming to a patient. In addition, it’s fascinating to be a party to the drama even the removal of a dying heart and the replacement with a healthy heart from another person. In fact, Taking Heart is a good antidote for the sort of horror medlar many of us feel and almost seem to glory in. “Don’t put me in a hospital, and stick all those tubes in me,” we say, shaking our heads as if this sentiment were something eccentric. Indeed, only a masochist would look forward to an arteriogram or biopsy, but there’s generally a good reason to endure it, and Greene puts the technology in perspective: “You look at the machines and see the lights, see the green jagged lines going up and down, the balls of light going across the monitor screens. You hear the thump, the beat, and realize for the first time, ‘That’s me, that’s me doing that. Those arc not machines, those lines and dots of light those are me. That’s my life.’ ” And outside, there are all the sunsets and thunderstorms and be 3ks to read and fish to catch the “enormous beauty of life” waiting for the survivor, the man or woman who got another chance. Change of Heart BY DIANA CLAITOR THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21 4-41111141041118PMWelems ao, ,nwa