Showing 1021 - 1030 of 1212 Fiction annotations
A woman medical student finds herself in a hierarchical dilemma while rotating through her internal medicine clerkship. She is helping to take care of a middle-aged man who has been hospitalized for a diagnostic work-up. As a consequence of invasive procedures ordered by his physicians to determine the cause of his symptoms, the patient has suffered serious complications and is moribund. The doctors are evasive with the patient and his family, who beseech the medical student for an explanation. Even though she has been instructed by the physicians to refer all issues back to them, she follows her own convictions and tells the truth: "Your father is dying."
As a result of this "insubordination," she is called in to see the head of the department, a man of "legendary diagnostic skill" with a long tenure at the hospital. He says that he will have her dismissed, and launches into a long diatribe, making the case for a paternalistic medicine in which the patient needs to believe that the physician is omniscient and possesses quasi-magical healing powers. "Miracle, mystery, and authority," he says, are at the heart of what physicians can do for their patients and to undermine these is to do harm to the vast majority of the sick. Having made his point, he terminates the interview but reinstates the student, who, it is suggested, is so grateful (for his advice or for not being dismissed?) that she kisses him.
In the fall of 1907, Will and Eleanor Lightbody, a wealthy, neurotic couple from Peterskill, New York travel to Battle Creek, Michigan to immerse themselves in the routine of the famous sanitarium run by corn-flake inventor, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. They meet Charlie Ossining who is seeking his fortune in the fickle market of Battle Creek's breakfast food industry. The Lightbodys have just lost their infant daughter and Eleanor is taking Will to the "san" for the cure. An inveterate meat-eater with a sexual appetite, Will was addicted, first to alcohol, and then, to opium, after his wife spiked his coffee with an off-the-shelf-remedy for drink.
At the sanitarium, they must occupy separate rooms, refrain from sex, and piously eat inflexible non-meat diets. Therapies include five daily enemas, exercises, "radiated" water, and an electrical "sinusoidal bath," which accidentally fries one of the residents. Kellogg is gravely disappointed in Will's inability to toe the "physiologic" line, but he is more deeply disturbed by his adopted son, George, whose chosen life on the street is a perpetual embarrassment.
Worried about his sexual prowess and deprived of his wife, Will becomes obsessed with his beautiful nurse and opts for the stimulation of an electrical belt; equally frustrated and bent on self-starvation, his wife turns to the quack "Dr Spitzvogel" who specializes in nudism and "manipulation of the womb." Brought to their senses by humiliation, Will and Eleanor go home.
Meanwhile, Charlie has joined with George Kellogg and borrowed from Will to keep his business afloat, but he realizes that he has been swindled. He only narrowly escapes jail, during a fiery commotion created by George who is then murdered by his adoptive father.
Summary:This long (598 page) novel manages to portray serious moral questions while spinning an entertaining tale with complex characters and plenty of humorous touches. Wilbur Larch is the young physician who chooses to offer women either "an orphan or an abortion" in early 20th century rural Maine. Homer Wells is an orphan who just cannot stay permanently placed in a home and who gradually grows up as Larch's surrogate son and apprentice. Just as Homer realizes that he opposes abortion on principle, he is swept off to a coastal apple orchard. There, additional moral rules are called into question, particularly in a very nontraditional set of family and sexual arrangements.
Smiley's novel, King Lear (see King Lear in this database) with a shocking twist, portrays the enduring violence of incest to body and spirit. The narrative voice describes her family--a wealthy farmer and his three daughters. Family relationships are explored, especially the hidden roots that shape and define behaviors and conflicts, some lasting a lifetime.
The disclosure of a horribly dark secret explains the personalities of the three daughters and, for two, their metaphoric afflictions (infertility and breast cancer). Smiley's novel is layered with rich complexities, but none more powerful and astonishing than the core event, the sexual victimization of two vulnerable teenage girls who, as the story unfolds, are permanently scarred. Through a reinterpretation of Lear, Smiley demonstrates the cost of this hideous form of male domination and female victimization.
Prince Myshkin is an epileptic returning from a sanitarium. On the train, he meets Rogozhin and they become friends. Myshkin visits his distant relatives, the Epanchins, a fashionable family. General Epanchin gives him a job and he fascinates Madame Epanchin and her daughter, Aglaya, with his innocence and awkwardness.
The Prince boards with Ganya, a schemer who wants to marry Aglaya for her money. Ganya is also involved with Natasya; though innocent, she is a kept woman. Myshkin pities Natasya; in their innocence they are two of a kind. He offers to marry her, but as she is worried about ruining his name, she runs off with Rogozhin. Shortly afterward, she runs away from Rogozhin and disappears. Rogozhin assumes she has run to Myshkin and with Ganya plots the Prince's death.
Meanwhile, Aglaya has fallen in love with Myshkin, but his bizarre talk disturbs the family and when he falls into a fit at a party they ban him from the house. Aglaya also grows increasingly jealous of Natasya. The two women meet and Aglaya resolves to give up the Prince. At last, Natasya agrees to marry Myshkin but on their wedding day, she elopes with Rogozhin, who murders her. Myshkin returns to the sanitarium.
As the book opens, Fauchery, a drama critic, is waiting for the hottest play in Paris to open. "The Blonde Venus" has bad music and bad actresses, but a new star, Nana, who appears on stage clad only in a diaphanous wrap brings down the house anyway. Nana is an experienced concubine. She exploits the hysteria caused by her nearly nude performance to win Steiner, a wealthy banker. Steiner buys her a country house where she entertains other lovers to win more gifts. Here she also has a brief affair with the penniless student George.
Steiner soon sets her loose and she takes up with Fontan, an actor. She tries to be domestic and kind, but Fontan beats her, then abandons her and she turns to streetwalking. Threatened by the police, who in order to prevent the spread of syphilis can imprison women and perform mandatory gynecological exams, she quickly searches for a new, wealthy lover. She finds Muffat whom she humiliates, trampling on his uniform and sleeping with whomever she likes. One day, Muffat finds her in the arms of young George and then with his elderly father-in-law. Nana also brings home Stain, a streetwalker, to be her lover and confidant.
Young George finally grows so jealous of Muffat and of his brother, another of Nana's conquests, he kills himself in her bedroom. Her other lovers must step over the bloodstain to approach Nana's bed. Soon after, Nana catches smallpox and dies miserably, the disease ravaging her beauty. She dies in 1870 just as the Franco-Prussian War begins.
This is a collection of stories and sketches by a practicing neurologist. Most of the material is clinical and autobiographical. In "Mrs. Bachman" a new patient enters the doctor's office, carrying a thick stack of medical records. It all started in 1946 and no doctor has ever found the explanation of her condition. Meanwhile, the doctor is wearing contact lenses for the first time. His eyes begin to tear. Mrs. Bachman thinks that he is crying over her misfortune. She consoles him, "I want you to know that you are the kindest, most sympathetic man I have ever met."
In "Intensive Care" an elderly woman is agitated after a seizure. The staff try unsuccessfully to calm her. Finally, her husband approaches and kisses her. She settles peacefully and they hold hands.
The doctor in "Continuing Medical Education" finally discovers metastatic breast cancer as the cause of a psychotherapist's neck pain, long after he and other physicians had told her again and again that the "driving mechanism" of her chronic pain was "unresolved anger and frustration." In a longer essay, "The Narrow Bridge," the author reflects on the meaning of healing, "Healing helps us find a place in this world for ourselves and for each other."
Lol Stein is 19 years old and engaged to be married. At the town ball, her fiance leaves her and runs away with a beautiful stranger. Lol withdraws into herself, but seems not to feel much pain. In fact, she subsequently lives her life in a dull, almost-numb state, never really interacting with people nor experiencing feelings (pain or joy). She falls into a loveless marriage and has children.
After ten years she encounters a school friend, Tatiana Karl, who had been with her at the town ball. Tatiana also has a loveless marriage, but has taken a lover, the young doctor Jacques Hold. There is a strong attraction between Lol and Jacques and they have an affair, but she remains peculiarly abstracted and estranged from life.
Consuelo Camacho Ramos (Connie) was placed in Bellevue Hospital because she abused drugs and alcohol after the police killed her blind, African-American lover. She was accused of child abuse and her daughter was put up for adoption. When the novel opens, Connie has been released and is living in New York with little money and no hope of a job.
She begins to be visited by an individual from the year 2137 who calls "himself" Luciente. He communicates with Connie mentally and she visits his world in the same way, experiencing everything without moving her body. Luciente’s community is not divided along gender lines. Indeed, "he" turns out to be what Connie calls "female," though the name means nothing in this future world.
Reproduction takes place in an artificial environment in which fetuses are delivered at ten months to improve their strength. Every child has three "mothers," but is raised by the entire community. Luciente’s community is fighting a war against forces that want people to live in a hierarchical system in which women all become prostitutes, victims of a larger, manipulating force, a battle Connie also fights in her world.
When Connie breaks the nose of her niece’s pimp, he takes her back to Bellevue. No one believes that she did not provoke the attack. They assume she is mad. In an exemplary moment, the nurses who attend to Connie talk over her head about how dirty these mad people are. Left tied to a bed for many hours, Connie has urinated on herself and has been unable to wipe her nose. The nurses ignore every word she says.
Connie learns to manipulate the system, not swallowing her pills and telling her counselor that indeed she was sick but now feels much better. She draws the line, however, when she is chosen to be a subject in an experiment. The doctors plan to implant electrodes into the patients’ brains to control the patients’ emotions. Connie kills the doctors by slipping poison into their coffee.
In her youth, Mrs. Palfrey had been a model British woman. She married a military man, moved to Borneo and lived happily and properly, giving direction to the natives. She and her husband retired in Britain. Now, however, Mrs. Palfrey is a widow. Her daughter Elizabeth, who lives in Scotland, has not invited her to stay and she is not sure she would want to. Instead, she courageously decides to move into the Claremont Hotel in London, where she meets the other permanent residents who, like herself, are old and rather poor.
Mrs. Palfrey gets the attention and envy of the group when she tells them that her oldest grandchild and heir, Desmond, works at The British Museum and will undoubtedly be coming to visit. He never comes.
One day as Mrs. Palfrey is out for a walk, she falls. A young man, Ludovic Myers (Ludo), comes out of his basement apartment to help her. He takes her inside, doctors her knee, and gives her a cup of tea. He is trying to write a book and finds her an excellent study.
Mrs. Palfrey asks him to pretend to be Desmond so that she can save her reputation. He agrees. Mrs. Palfrey fancies that she is in love with him. They meet rarely, though once he invites her to dinner at his house. He makes an otherwise lonely and dull existence exciting. He is the only one who visits The Claremont without immediately rushing out, feeling as if a terrible duty has been fulfilled.
When one of the older residents at The Claremont becomes incontinent, the management forces her to move. She dies quickly, alone in an understaffed nursing home. Mrs. Palfrey has another fall and winds up in the hospital. Ludo comes to see her; he spends more time with her than any of her family.