Showing 1031 - 1040 of 1219 Fiction annotations

A Thousand Acres

Smiley, Jane

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

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.

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The Idiot

Dostoevski, Fyodor Mikhailovich

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

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.

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Nana

Zola, Emile

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

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.

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Together in the Dark

Colfelt, Robert

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

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."

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The Ravishing of Lol Stein

Duras, Marguerite

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

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.

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Woman on the Edge of Time

Piercy, Marge

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

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.

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Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

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.

She dies.

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Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

As a young woman, Fermina Daza kept a lengthy and passionate correspondence with Florentino Ariza, who was socially her inferior, but was desperately in love with her. They became engaged through their letters, exchanged through hiding places and telegrams in code.

But one day, when Fermina Daza comes close to Florentino Ariza in the market, she feels suddenly ill and tells him it was all a mistake. Instead, she marries Dr. Juvenal Urbino, a European-educated perfectionist, who falls in love with her on a medical visit. Their tumultuous but affectionate marriage lasts over fifty years, through a civil war, cholera outbreaks and the Doctor's brief affair with a patient. Juvenal Urbino distinguishes himself by instituting policies to combat cholera. He dies, falling from a tree as he attempts to catch his pet parrot.

Florentino Ariza comes to the wake. He is now about seventy and controls a wealthy shipping operation. After the other guests leave, he approaches Fermina Daza, saying, "I have waited for this opportunity for more than half a century, to repeat to you once again my vow of eternal fidelity and ever-lasting love."

She throws him out of the house, but continues to think of him. He becomes a regular visitor. Finally, they take a boat ride together, down the rivers that are being slowly drained and poisoned, listening for the cries of the manatees. They do not return, but prepare to sail on forever.

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Rubyfruit Jungle

Brown, Rita Mae

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Rubyfruit Jungle is about growing up a lesbian in America. Molly Bolt is adopted by a poor Southern couple, Carrie and Carl, who want a better life for their daughter than they've had. Molly does too, but she has different ideas about how that will unfold. As a child she plays bawdy practical jokes and has sex with her girlfriend in the sixth grade; as one of the most popular girls in high school, she plays heterosexual games but is the lover of the head cheerleader; she is thrown out of college after she is found out to be lovers with her alcoholic heiress roommate. She journeys to New York City, where she waitresses her way through film school, having one adventure after another, armed with startling beauty, wicked wit, and fierce determination to become a great filmmaker.

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The Cancer Ward

Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The story takes place in the men's cancer ward of a hospital in a city in Soviet Central Asia. The patients in Ward 13 all suffer from cancer, but differ in age, personality, nationality, and social class (as if such a thing could be possible in the Soviet "classless" society!). We are first introduced to Pavel Rusanov, a Communist Party functionary, who enters the hospital because of a rapidly-growing neck tumor.

We soon learn, however, that the book's central character is Oleg Kostoglotov, a young man who has recently been discharged from a penal camp and is now "eternally" exiled to this particular province. Only two weeks earlier, he was admitted to the ward in grave condition from an unspecified tumor, but he has responded rapidly to radiation therapy. Among the doctors are Zoya, a medical student; Vera Gangart, a young radiologist; and Lyudmila Dontsova, the chief of radiation therapy.

Rusanov and Kostoglotov respond to therapy and are eventually discharged; other patients remain in the ward, get worse, or are sent home to die. In the end Kostoglotov boards a train to the site of his "eternal" exile: "The long awaited happy life had come, it had come! But Oleg somehow did not recognize it."

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