Showing 11 - 20 of 81 annotations contributed by Kohn, Martin

Our Cancer Year

Pekar, Harvey; Brabner, Joyce

Last Updated: Oct-17-2012
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Graphic Memoir

Summary:

The year is 1990; a lump in the groin which Harvey had ignored has enlarged and his wife convinces him to have it checked out. It turns out to be a lymphoma and thus begins the yearlong chronicle. Intertwined with the couple's struggle with diagnosis and treatment is their decision to buy a home, and Joyce's work with an international group of teenagers who have survived war. However, the bulk of this unconventional work depicts in a stark and straightforward way the energy necessary to survive not just cancer, but cancer treatment.

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Corporate Decision

Tooker, George

Last Updated: Apr-26-2012
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Summary:

The foreground of this painting is dominated by a "pieta" type grouping. One woman hovers closely over what appears to be a dying man, while another comforts a small child. This part of the canvas is underlighted. The colors are rich earth tones. The figures are non-Caucasian.

In the background, in harsh light, is a group of identical looking starkly white men. In fact, their faces are almost skeletal. All are in suits, three are seated, with four others standing behind the seated figures. They look very much like a "tribunal."

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Out the Window

Hall, Donald

Last Updated: Mar-02-2012
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

The writer Donald Hall gives us a lyrical armchair view through the windows of his house not only of the New Hampshire landscape, but also of his and his anscestors lives lived in that landscape. His honest and moving account from his 83rd year  is captured in the following: "I feel the circles grow smaller, and old age is a ceremony of losses, which is on the whole preferable to dying at forty-seven or fifty-two [the ages his wife Jane Kenyon died and his father died]. When I lament and darken over my diminishments, I accomplish nothing. It's better to sit at the window all day, pleased to watch the birds, barns, and flowers. It is a pleasure to write about what I do" (p.41).

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Wings

Kopit, Arthur

Last Updated: Nov-17-2011
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

In the well-written preface, Arthur Kopit describes how he came to write Wings, a play about stroke and language disorder. And he explains there how his fictional account of strokes and their aftermath, "is a work of speculation informed by fact." One fact important to Kopit was that his father suffered a major stroke seven months before Kopit was commissioned by National Public Radio to write an original radio play.

Wings, (which has been sucessfully staged as well) however, is not based on Kopit's father, but on the life of a character, Emily Stilson, who is an amalgam of people, both stroke victims and their stroke-recovered caregivers, from the rehab center caring for Kopit's father. The title of the play refers to an early career of Emily Stilson--she was an airplane wingwalker. Kopit deftly employs the sounds of an airplane in the scenes in which Emily is experiencing a stroke. In fact, the sounds and sights inside and outside of Emily as well as her private dialogue are combined masterfully by Kopit to bring about a high degree of verisimilitude to the chaos produced by stroke.

The play is divided into four sections: "Prelude," the moments before her first stroke; "Catastrophe," her trip to and stay in an institution; "Awakening," a longer section dealing primarily with her struggle to reorient and regain language skills; and "Explorations," where further therapy, including group therapy, and her eventual demise are portrayed.

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War Dances

Alexie, Sherman

Last Updated: Mar-23-2010
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

I believe the best way to describe this partly autobiographical story is as an illness travelogue. Alexie prepares his reader for a strange journey by making the first stop his discovery of a dead cockroach in his suitcase. This allusion to The Metamorphosis works wonderfully well for the Kafkaesque remainder of the journey.  His bodily journey moves from loss of hearing to possible meningioma to his doctor's proclamation that his "brain is beautiful." His existential/psychological/cultural journey, triggered by his bodily suffering, moves in multiple directions: to time spent with his dying father, his own experience with hydrocephalus, his grandfather's death in WWII, and his loving relationships with his children, wife and brother-in-law.

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Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Struck Dumb is a collaboratively written play based on the firsthand experience of stroke by one of the authors, Joe Chaikin. Chaikin, when about 50 years old, suffered a stroke during an operation for a faulty heart valve, which left him aphasic. Co-author van Italie, stated that this play "is a theatrical metaphor for the aphasic character's mind: his written thoughts literally come flying in at him from all sides of stage in full view of the audience." In this way an actor who is aphasic and can read, can play the role.

The main character, Adnan, is a "50ish" Arab-American living in Venice, California who has suffered a stroke. The "scenes" in the play revolve around a day in the life of Adnan beginning with "waking up," ending with "sunset," and in between with "practicing words," "my house," "the mall," and other everyday, yet extraordinary, concerns.

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Mrs. Dumpty

Bloch, Chana

Last Updated: Dec-29-2009
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem is written from the point of view of a caregiver, one with seemingly endless patience, who steps in to piece together her loved one after the "doctors gave up." Indeed, after Humpty has fallen again, we find him at the speaker’s door "begging / in that leaky voice / and I start wiping the smear / from his broken face."

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Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

After five unproductive meandering sessions, Mr. Trexler, the patient, turns the tables on his psychiatrist, batting back to him the question he has just been pitched: "What do you want?" The doctor's pathetically shallow and concise answer, "I want a wing on the small house I own in Westport. I want more money and leisure to do the things I want to do"(101), propel Mr. Trexler towards compassion for the doctor, and a feeling that he himself had regained his own quirky hold on the world.

After leaving the "poor, scared, overworked" doctor, Trexler thought again about what he wanted: "'I want the second tree from the corner, just as it stands,' he said, answering an imaginary question from an imaginary physician. And he felt a slow pride in realizing that what he wanted none could bestow, and that what he had none could take away. He felt content to be sick, unembarrassed at being afraid; and in the jungle of his fear he glimpsed (as he had so often glimpsed them before)the flashy tail feathers of the bird courage"(102-3).

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Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

After his divorce and a year of traveling the world with Doctors Without Borders, Orville Rose returns to his home town of Columbia, New York upon learning of his mother's death. He discovers upon his return that in order to receive the benefits of his mother's will he must stay in this "Hudson River town plagued by breakage" for one year and 13 days. What transpires over that time is the heart of this novel which includes Orville's love story with a single mom (who has her own physical breakage), a renewed relationship with his mentor, Dr. Bill Starbuck (the inventor of the cure-all Starbusol who leaves Orville to travel the world with his wife Babette, before returning to town to receive Orville's care as he dies), and the often hilarious account of Orville trying to care for the citizens of Columbia. Thrown into this mix of new and old relationships is the floating presence of his dead mother as well as the in-his-face presence of Orville's boyhood arch-nemesis who now is riding high in Reagan's "Morning in America" as Columbia's candidate for congress.

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Summary:

In 1999, eighteen years after Project HOPE began publishing the journal "Health Affairs," the founding editor, John Iglehart, began a new column: Narrative Matters. This book contains 46 of the 80 essays published to date, and an inspiring foreword by Abraham Verghese. The essays are contained in eight chapters-- "Writing to Change Things: Essays on the Policy Narrative," "Dollars and Sense: Hard Financial Realities," "Bearing Witness: Patient's Stories," "The Maddening System: Frustrations and Solutions," "Trouble in the Ranks: Professional Problems," "Drug Resistance: Battling Undue Influences," "Disparity Dilemmas: Stories on Race and Ethnicity," and "Values and Choice: Stories of Practical Ethics." Familiar voices include those of Fitzhugh Mullan (one of the editors), Abigail Zuger, Howard Brody, Richard Lamm, John Lantos, Danielle Ofri, and Carol Levine. The essays in the first section strike an important cautionary tone, reminding readers that the plural of anecdote too often is taken for policy and that the repetition of anecdote should not be seen as evidence.

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