Showing 11 - 20 of 78 annotations contributed by Kohn, Martin

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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Word of the Cure

Glowney, John

Last Updated: Jul-13-2007
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet beautifully captures the connection between a successful neurosurgical operation that restores "the jitterbug of impulses" of the brain, with the neighbors' "word of the cure." He likens the neighbors' conversations to "the way, in Montana prairie country, / the first telephones let the local secrets / and sorrows pour through the survey-staked / barbed-wire fences now doubling / as makeshift transmission lines."

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Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

Jay Baruch offers readers a series of multi-layered stories focusing on caregivers, both professionals (doctors and nurses primarily) and family members, and those they are trying to care for. The setting for a number of the stories (and therefore a number of the characters) is from the working class or underclass. Another group of stories is written from the perspective of medical students, residents or physicians early in their training. In all the stories, the characters' lives are close and full of conflict. The language they use to express themselves is raw and direct. There are no simple solutions to their problems. Yet struggle on do these characters, testing the limits of their compassion and abilities to deliver care at least competently.

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Not All of Us Are Saints

Hilfiker, David

Last Updated: Dec-06-2006
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

Having previously described his seven years as a family practitioner in rural Minnesota (Healing the Wounds, Pantheon Books, New York, 1985) Hilfiker now has turned his attention to a decade in inner-city Washington, D.C., where he practiced what he calls "poverty medicine." These introspective essays are written in a style similar to that of his first book and detail the profound struggles of the overwhelmingly African-American community he serves and lives with.

Also examined are his and his family's battle to live with their white middle-class privileges in the midst of this impoverished community. This book very effectively alternates between the numerous stories of his personal encounters with patients and deeply reflective commentary about those encounters. Prescriptions are not offered other than that a new art of caring for the poor is needed.

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