Showing 11 - 20 of 293 annotations tagged with the keyword "Obsession"

Under the Skin

Faber, Michel

Last Updated: Dec-04-2013
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Isserley is an alien whose assignment on earth is to abduct male (preferably muscular and burly) hitchikers for their processing, in a subterranean area under a barn in Scotland where she and her fellow aliens are based, as farmed animals that are castrated, made mute by tongue-amputation and fattened up in pens like calves for their veal. After a few months, they are eventually slaughtered and butchered for meat and then transported back to Isserley's native land, which is portrayed as a dark, arid, unpleasant place where meat is a rare and expensive delicacy.

Vaguely canine in her original form, Isserley has had to undergo mutilating surgery to pass as a human whose day job is to drive on the A9 of Scotland picking up unsuspecting men and then, after sometimes quite interesting conversations, paralyzing them by flicking a switch that activates twin jets that come up through the front passenger seat injecting an immediately acting curare-like drug. Isserley then transports them back to the farm.

In constant physical pain from the surgery and the unnatural upright posture, and always questioning herself, her role on earth, her feminity amongst the otherwise all male alien workforce, Isserley falls in love with the earth's natural world (there are not oceans or lakes on her world), especially Scotland's lochs, rain, cloud and snow. Sheep hold a special place in her heart.

Amlis Vess, the son of the owner of the company that is selling earthmeat at exorbitant prices back home, shows up for an unnannounced site visit and curiosity since he is ideologically opposed to this killing of animals - he has no idea how sentient and intelligent earthlings are and this fact is carefully kept secret from him during his brief visit, which is also marked by his marvelling at earth's natural beauties and what appears to be an emotional or sexual attraction to Isserley.

After some rough handling by one of the hitchhikers who attempts to rape her, her troubling interactions with Amlis Vess, news that the police have taken notice of a missing hitchhiker and are conducting an investigation, and her discovery that there may be a replacement for her in the offing - Isserley decides to strike out on her own. The end of the novel is, although not shocking, not expected.

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Open Heart

Yehoshua, A. B.

Last Updated: Nov-30-2013
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Benjamin Rubin is completing his surgical residency in a Tel Aviv hospital when the director of the hospital asks him to accompany him and his wife to India to rescue their daughter who is critically ill.  This invitation distresses him, as he recognizes in it a way of removing him from competition for a position in surgery at the hospital.  He makes the trip, however, and is entranced by Indian culture and mysticism, and, eventually, not by the daughter but by the mother he accompanied.  Back in Tel Aviv, he has a brief affair with the mother, moves into an apartment she owns, leaving his mother's home, and, to allay his obsession with an unavailable woman, marries an independent-minded woman who has also traveled in India and absorbed Buddhist spirituality and Eastern philosophy she discovered there.  Working as an anesthesiologist, Benjy continues in that setting, conflicted about both work and life, unable to connect deeply with any of those whose love he has received or sought.  Eventually his wife leaves with their baby daughter to return to India, where she has found a spiritual home, and Benjy remains in a divided state of mind in a divided country where his own spiritual heritage remains to be plumbed.

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Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This essay concerns a very unusual man, Washington Woodward, whom Donald Hall met as a young boy during his summers in New Hampshire and came to know even more from the tales he heard from his grandfather. Abandoned at age 6, Washington grew up on the author’s grandparents’ farm until age 12 when his “lazy and mean” father reclaimed him. Running away 4 years later, Washington began the highly eccentric life limned in this poetic mini-biography.

“Eccentric” probably does not do justice to Washington’s style, habits, skills, and foibles. He was entirely self-sufficient, from his clothes to his food - much of which he hunted or grew - to his handmade machines, including a complicated boulder-moving contraption designed to clear the way for cows, not humans. Washington could repair almost anything, from an outhouse to a baseball bat to a mowing machine.

The range of his skills is impressive by anyone’s standards, not just a 21st century reader: “I knew him to shoe a horse, install plumbing, dig a well, make a gun, build a road, lay a dry stone wall, do the foundation and frame of a house, invent a new kind of trap for beavers, manufacture his own shotgun shells, grind knives, and turn a baseball bat on a lathe” (page 23), reminding this reader of a similar passage about Nate Shaw in Theodore Rosengarten’s All God’s Dangers. Living the life of a hermit most of the time on Ragged Mountain, New Hampshire, Washington spent a great deal of his life with his beloved animals: Phoebe the pet Holstein and Old Duke the ox, whom he taught to shake hands and roll over.

The nails? Washington would gather stray nails he found in boards or discovered on walks, and take them back to his hut where he would straighten them and store them. Why? “He saved the nails because it was a sin to allow good material to go to waste.” (page 26)

He died in a state nursing home, a month after a visit by the author and his grandfather.


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The Rosie Project

Simsion, Graeme

Last Updated: Aug-22-2013
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A big believer in evidence-based science, Australian Professor Don Tillman is 39 years old, “tall fit and intelligent with a relatively high status and an above average income.” He should be attractive to women and succeed in reproducing. Yet he is alone. Dating is a disappointing waste of time.

After he is asked to give a lecture on Asperger’s syndrome, Don decides to solve his problem scientifically. He develops his Wife Project – a massive questionnaire designed to weed out incompatibles and identify women most likely to be a match. Intelligence, punctuality, shared tastes, and no use of tobacco or alcohol are high on the list of desirables. His only friends, geneticist Gene and psychologist Claudia, humor and support him. Gene and Claudia have an open marriage, which means that Gene’s “research” involves his bedding many women of different nationalities.

Into his life comes Rosie—a wild, disorganized bartender who smokes. She is totally incompatible. Curious about her biological father, Rosie inspires Don to develop the "father project" as a way of identifying all possible candidates and then eliminating them one by one using DNA. Circumstances force them to work together at various other schemes—running a one-off bar for which Don, the non-drinker, becomes a walking encyclopedia of cocktail recipes. A trip to New York City results in more hilarity, further destabilizing Don’s equanimity. His stereotypical assumptions are challenged when he discovers that she is completing a PhD on the side. They have fun. But Rosie cannot be the right one because she would fail the questionnaire.

Eventually and predictably Don realizes that it is Rosie whom he wants and needs. He develops the Rosie project to win her back. He also shows Gene that the wonderful Claudia is about to leave him and that open marriage is for the birds—or is it the bees? Happy endings all round.

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Night Rounds

Tursten, Helene

Last Updated: Aug-22-2013
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Police inspector Irene Huss, married to an inspired chef and mother of twin teenaged girls, is summoned to investigate the murder by strangulation of a nurse who had been working the night shift in a private hospital. A power failure that same night provokes the death of a patient when his respirator failed. The nurse’s body is found tossed over a generator in the basement electrical room—one of the first places inspected. The lines had been deliberately cut.

Another nurse is missing. The only other nurse on duty that night is convinced that she has seen the hospital’s old ghost, Nurse Tekla, who hanged herself in the hospital attic because of a broken heart a half century earlier.

The hospital director, handsome but administratively challenged Dr. Löwander, is devastated. He worries about the possible failure of the hospital, which he inherited from his father and he seems genuinely concerned for his staff. His ex-wife remains bitter about her divorce years ago, but his present wife – an obsessive body builder and trainer—seems unconcerned by the events. She has long been planning to turn the hospital into a spa and gym. The dead patient’s beautiful, youngish widow has just come into a lot of money with her husband’s death by power failure.

The investigation leads to the history of the hospital, old affairs, and the origins of the ghost-nurse story, which attaches itself to popular opinions about the case to the immense irritation of the police chief. 

Meanwhile, one of Huss's daughters has become a militant vegan, resulting in more stressors in her double life as a wife and a cop.  

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

In 1904, the 19 year-old Russian Jewish Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) is admitted to Burgholzi clinic under the care of Dr. Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) who is beginning to adopt the talk-therapy methods of psychoanalysis promoted by Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). 

She is hysterical and difficult to control, but she is also bright and has been studying to become a doctor. Jung slowly breaks through her resistence using dream interpretation and word association; eventually she reveals that her mental distress has its origin in her relationship with her father. He would punish her physically and she found it sexually exciting. 

The married Jung is obsessed with his patient and seduces her. They conduct a heated affair that entails sessions of bondage and beating, that they pursue almost like a scientific experiment.

On this background, Jung is becoming the protégé and anticipated heir of Freud—but they disagree over whether or not psychotherapy can cure. Spielrein recovers and goes on to become a physician and psychiatrist who develops her own methods of therapy. Freud comes to admire her and Jung is torn by jealousy. 

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The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira

Aira, Cesar

Last Updated: Jun-30-2013
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

The protagonist-physician, Dr. Aira, is an almost 50-year-old sleepwalker who resides in Buenos Aires. He's nearsighted, introspective, and paranoid. Dr. Aira's fame stems from his "miracle cures" - even though it's not clear that he's ever actually performed one. Dr. Aira does not believe in God.

His initial encounter with "paranormal medicine" occurred during childhood when dog owners in his town were led to believe that by submitting themselves to a lengthy set of penicillin injections their pets would be painlessly neutered. Acknowledging the absurdity of that situation, he remained intrigued by the "possibility of action from a distance" (p10) and the lure of magical healing.

Dr. Aira's nemesis is Dr. Actyn, Chief of Medicine who tries to ridicule Dr. Aira and debunk his claims. Dr. Actyn sets elaborate traps including one with a "dying" actor on an ambulance who Dr. Aira refuses to cure.

Dr. Aira obtains enough money to devote 10 months solely to writing his secrets and eventually self-publishing his knowledge in the form of pamphlets. His plan is interrupted by an urgent request to perform a miracle cure on a terminally-ill cancer patient. He consents and makes a house call to treat the wealthy man. After one hour of intense deliberation and theorizing, Dr. Aira's work is complete. Laughter erupts. The "patient" is a fake. It's his archenemy Dr. Actyn in disguise. Dr. Aira's failure is captured on camera.

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House Rules

Picoult, Jodi

Last Updated: Aug-19-2012
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Jacob, a teen with Asperger's syndrome, has long been obsessed with the details of crime scenes and crime detection.  He tends to show up when local crimes are reported, and is sometimes able to offer unnerving insights to forensic analysts.  He works closely with an empathetic, intuitive young woman tutor whose controlling boyfriend has more than once tried to taunt Jacob out of her life, but she and Jacob have a strong, healthy connection that ridicule can't touch.  When she is found murdered, Jacob becomes a suspect, partly because of his proximity to the crime, and partly because the symptoms of Asperger's-avoiding eye contact, twitching, and hesitant or repetitive speech-resemble guilty behavior.  Though he has valuable information to offer as to who actually committed the crime, the process of making himself heard by those disinclined to take him seriously and uninformed about his syndrome, takes time, during which the disrupted lives of those around Jacob, especially his mother, become stories in their own right.

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Silence

Wagner, Jan

Last Updated: Aug-13-2012
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In 1974, a student befriends Pärssinen, the gardener of his apartment complex in the town of Turku, Finland. Pärssinen invites him to drink and watch pornographic movies from his extensive collection. One night when both are full of alcohol, the gardener stops a girl on a bicycle, rapes and strangles her, and tosses the body in a lake. The drunken student is a baffled witness. The body resurfaces several months later, but the case is never solved. Her name was Pia.

More than thirty years later, in 2007, another girl, Sinikka, goes missing. Her bicycle is found with traces of her blood right beside the memorial shrine to Pia at the place of her murder. The retired cop, Ketola, is convinced that solving this new crime will also solve the old one.

At the same time, far away in Helsinki, Timo Korvensuo and his wife are entertaining friends. He is a successful real estate agent with a lovely, kind wife and two children, a boy and a girl. News of the missing girl greatly disturbs Timo and he leaves home headed to Turku telling his family it is for business. The reader realizes that Timo must be the unnamed student who witnessed the first murder.  

In parallel with the police investigation, Timo’s abject wanderings in Turku seem to be centered on (re-)finding and perhaps outing the original killer. Police discover that Sinikka’s parents are consumed with guilt for the difficulties they have had with their adolescent daughter; they fear she has been snatched, perhaps killed, before they could patch things up.  The father is a suspect.

Timo finds Pärssinen again and learns that he is unaware of the copycat crime. The police also also visit Pärssinen as a person of interest, but nothing comes of it. Timo goes to Pia’s mother, still living in the same home, to express his sorrow for her loss.

SPOILER ALERT!  Primed by Ketola, Pia’s mother contacts the police. They raid Timo’s home in Helsinki and find child pornography on his computer. They know he cannot have committed the recent crime, but they are convinced that he killed Pia. As the noose tightens, Sinikka reappears alive and well from a hiding place in the forest. She staged the second crime as bait to lure the true killer in a plan she had cooked up for Ketola. Timo commits suicide and the police close both cases, but they are wrong.

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Annotated by:
Schilling, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Open Wound is a novel crafted from the extensive documents of an unsettling, little-known, yet remarkable episode in the history of medicine.

In the summer of 1822, Dr. William Beaumont was practicing medicine at a rugged military outpost on Mackinac Island in Lake Huron, part of the Michigan territory.  His assignment as Assistant Surgeon, US Army represented about the best circumstances he could expect from his training as a medical apprentice without a university education.  In addition to soldiers and officers, Beaumont sometimes attended patients from the American Fur Company, whose warehouses shared the island's harbor.  On June 6, an accidentally discharged gunshot cratered the abdomen of an indentured, French-speaking Canadian trapper.  Fortunately for him, Beaumont served during the War of 1812 and knew how to care for devastating wounds.   With the surgeon's medical attention and willingness to house and feed the hapless trapper, Alexis St. Martin's body unexpectedly survived the assault.  But his wound didn't fully heal.  As a result, it left an opening in his flesh and ribs that allowed access to his damaged stomach.  Through the fistula, Beaumont dangled bits of food, collected "gastric liquor," and made unprecedented observations about the process of digestion.  

His clever and meticulously documented experiments, conducted on the captive St. Martin over several years, corrected prevailing assumptions about digestion.  Once thought to depend on grinding and putrification, normal digestion, Beaumont observed, was a healthy chemical process.  Any signs of putrification or fermentation indicated pathology.  In 1833 Beaumont published his thesis on the chemistry of digestion in Experiments and Observations of the Gastric Juice and the Physiology of Digestion.  Shortly before completing the book, he received a temporary leave from his military service to restart his research in Washington.  But to carry on his project, Beaumont had to persuade St. Martin-who entered and exited his physician-researcher's life several times before-to leave his growing family in Canada and once again become a research subject.  St. Martin does return, with pay, and briefly accepts his role.  But he also confronts Beaumont about whether the long confinement on Mackinac Island was more necessary for the patient's survival or the doctor's research agenda.  Or for the doctor's subsequently improved station in life. 

Although some of Beaumont's academically trained colleagues found fault with his methodologies, the farmer's son and frontier doctor did achieve a gratifying level of professional accomplishment and wealth.  To enjoy them, he had to set aside humiliations he experienced along the way, accept his lot after military service as an ordinary practitioner in St. Louis,  and weather an unforeseen turn near the end of life.    

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