The Human Condition Curated

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Sebastian Galbo on Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi

"[Set in Baghdad] Sadaawi’s novel concentrates on exteriors and interiors, explosions and implosions, and ‘boundedness’ and ‘unboundedness’ that exposes the vulnerability of religious, political, and social boundaries."

Albert Howard Carter on Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

"This is a dramatic and moving story about a concert pianist who, at 45 years of age, suddenly and inexplicably, has ALS, and also equally about his ex-wife Karina, who takes on his care throughout his slow, inevitable, and lethal decline."

Marilyn McEntyre on The Dark Flood Rises by Margaret Drabble

"Laced with Drabble's dry wit and the main character's occasionally acerbic observations about aging and dying…the novel challenges readers to accept the uneasy terms on which we all get to be here…”

Russell Teagarden on Farinelli and The King by Claire van Kampen

"...the play shows how an illness experience can manifest not just in signs and symptoms, but also in desires, and these desires can lead to ways other than traditional biomedical interventions to help sick people.”

Sebastian Galbo on Consumptive Chic: A History of Beauty, Fashion, and Disease by Carolyn Day

“From the late 18th to mid-19th centuries a peculiar trend swept through European fashion. Through couture and cosmetics, this vogue emulated the physical ravages of a much-feared disease, tuberculosis, aestheticizing its symptoms as enviable qualities of physical beauty.”

Jacalyn Duffin on His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae by Graeme Burnet

"A remarkable novel that is well anchored in the feudalistic, social history of Highland Scotland and in the history of medicine and psychiatry."


Spencer McClelland on Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli

"Not so much an essay on the overall state of immigration (demographics, policy, etc.), as it is a probing of the hardship facing children leaving (usually fleeing) Central America and attempting to find a home in the United States, the work shines because of its brevity and density."

Martin Kohn on Human Voices Wake Us by Jerald Winakur

"The 55 poems in Human Voices Wake Us fall primarily into 3 categories: biographical poems, poems about the natural world, and poems about the worldly travels and travails of a man learning and practicing medicine."

Guy Glass on Spy of the First Person by Sam Shepard

"This book is an unsentimental yet moving, exquisitely observed illness narrative written by a master.  An author who was known throughout his career for dealing with difficult themes, Shepard did not flinch from them even in the face of death."

Shawn Thomas on Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

"In this most recent biography, Isaacson takes us through the life and times of Leonardo, highlighting milestones of his career, while also underscoring some of the seemingly trivial habits that were signatures of Leonardo’s personality and worldview."

Total Database Contents

  • 175 Visual Art Annotations
  • 2763 Literature Annotations
  • 262 Performing Art Annotations
  • 97 Artists
  • 1756 Authors
  • 149 Keywords