Showing 1051 - 1060 of 1213 Fiction annotations

Brave New World

Huxley, Aldous

Last Updated: Jan-24-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the "brave new world" of 632 A. F. (After Ford), universal human happiness has been achieved. (Well, almost.) Control of reproduction, genetic engineering, conditioning--especially via repetitive messages delivered during sleep--and a perfect pleasure drug called "Soma" are the cornerstones of the new society. Reproduction has been removed from the womb and placed on the conveyor belt, where reproductive workers tinker with the embryos to produce various grades of human beings, ranging from the super-intelligent Alpha Pluses down to the dwarfed semi-moron Epsilons.

Each class is conditioned to love its type of work and its place in society; for example, Epsilons are supremely happy running elevators. Outside of their work, people spend their lives in constant pleasure. This involves consuming (continually buying new things, whether they need them or not), participating in elaborate sports, and free-floating sex. While uninhibited sex is universal and considered socially constructive, love, marriage, and parenthood are viewed as obscene.

The story concerns Bernard, an alpha whose programming is a bit off--he is discontented and desires to spend time alone just thinking or looking at the stars. At one point he takes Lenina on a vacation to the savage reservation in New Mexico. There he discovers John (the Savage), son of Linda who had visited the reservation more than 20 years previously and was accidentally left behind. When she discovered she was pregnant (the ultimate humiliation!), she had to remain among the savages. John returns to the Brave New World where he is feted as the Visiting Savage. However, he cannot adapt to this totally alien society and, ultimately, he takes his own life.

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The New Magdalen

Collins, Wilkie

Last Updated: Jan-20-1998
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The opening chapters of this sensational novel focus on "Mercy Merrick," a nurse in the Franco-Prussian War. Mercy's post is taken over by the Germans. Mercy meets the emergency with great skill and aplomb, comforting the wounded soldiers and ensuring their safe passage. Her bravery is set in opposition to the cowardly surgeon and a timid English gentlewoman on her way to England to claim an inheritance from relatives who have never before met her.

In the midst of the battle, the English woman is killed. Mercy determines to take over the dead woman's identity and claim her inheritance. She successfully does so. However, it miraculously turns out that the Englishwoman was not dead at all, merely stunned, and she arrives in England looking for revenge. It is impossible for her to prove her identity until Mercy confesses. Even then, the reader has sympathy for the desperation that caused her to take on the impersonation and her story ends happily as she goes off to a happy marriage and to nurse orphans.

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To Hell with Dying

Walker, Alice

Last Updated: Jan-16-1998
Annotated by:
Terry, James

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Mr. Sweet is a neighbor of the narrator, who is initially a little girl summoned with the rest of her siblings whenever Mr. Sweet is threatening to die. The narrator describes how she and her brothers loved Mr. Sweet, despite the fact that he was an indifferent cotton farmer, a frequent drunk, and an inveterate smoker. Somehow the faults of the old man, including his falling-down bouts of drunkenness and his slovenly personal appearance, are not impediments to the devotion he inspires or the affection for him on the part of the narrator and her brothers.

Each time the children are summoned, Mr. Sweet is reputed to be at death's door. "To hell with dying," the narrator's father would say. "These children want Mr. Sweet!" Then the youngsters would leap on the man in bed and begin their miraculous revival. By turns tickling and kissing Mr. Sweet, the neighbor kids manage to revive him time after time. The narrator comes to have faith in her unfailing ability to bring him back to life, and several times the children succeed when the local doctor had given up hope.

Nearly two decades pass, and the narrator is in graduate school when another summons comes. She flies back to the rural South and hastens to the bedside of the old man, now over ninety. But this time, after a brief return to consciousness, Mr. Sweet dies.

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California Blue

Klass, David

Last Updated: Jan-16-1998
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

John Rodgers is in his last year in high school in a small northern California town where the majority of the townspeople work in the lumber industry. As the youngest son of a father who was a champion athlete, John has always felt pressured by him to excel in his sport of choice, distance running. His father also wants him to put aside his interest in biology--ecologists are the enemy since they threaten his livelihood by protesting clearcutting of redwoods. John can do neither.

In the middle of his senior year he learns that his father has leukemia and is losing ground rapidly. Never having had a comfortable relationship with him, the illness complicates their relationship which soon becomes even more complicated by John's discovery of a rare species of butterfly in the company woods. Knowing it will alienate him not only from his father but from the whole town, he reports the discovery and takes the consequences; his friends beat him up and he runs away. With the help of a sympathetic biology teacher he returns home to find his way to a "separate peace" with his father and a new, complex understanding of the trade-offs between loyalty and responsibility.

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When Nietzsche Wept

Yalom, Irvin

Last Updated: Jan-16-1998
Annotated by:
Martinez, Richard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The story begins in 1882, when Friedrich Nietzsche's beautiful and mysterious former lover convinces the famous Viennese physician and mentor to Sigmund Freud, Joseph Breuer, to cure Nietzsche of his "despair" so that the world will not be deprived of the "most important philosopher of the next 100 years." Breuer is known throughout Europe for his use of hypnosis and the "talking treatment" that have been successful in the treatment of hysteria.

Since Nietzsche is skeptical of what Breuer can do for him, Breuer offers the challenge that they might help each other. Through subterfuge, Breuer convinces Nietzsche to remain for 1 month in the Lauzon Clinic. Their bargain: Breuer agrees to treat Nietzsche for his chronic migraine headaches, if Nietzsche, the great philosopher, will listen to and cure Breuer of his own despair. What follows is a brilliant tour de force in which the two men engage in daily discussion, bantering, and intrigue, much like a chess game, jockeying for position, as both men are transformed in unpredictable and astonishing ways.

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Leaf Storm

Garcia Marquez, Gabriel

Last Updated: Dec-17-1997
Annotated by:
Fefferman, Stanley

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

In a South American town during the early years of this century, a retired doctor long known as an eccentric flatly refuses treatment to victims of a riot. Years later, the doctor hangs himself. For the vengeful town, the issue becomes whether he will receive a proper burial or be allowed to rot in the house where he had lately secluded himself.

This issue becomes the focal point of recollections, from many points of view, of fragments of the doctor's bizarre history. An old military man, who was originally the doctor's sponsor and host, braves the town's anger and forces his family members to help him carry out the burial. As it turns out, no one remembers the outrage apart from a few town officials, and the burial takes place without incident.

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The Father

Cassill, R. V. (Ronald Verlin)

Last Updated: Dec-17-1997
Annotated by:
Terry, James

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A young farmer and father of three, Cory Johnson has cobbled together his own corn sheller with old parts and a new electric motor. His four-year-old son Bobby catches a hand in the gears, and Cory can only free him by amputating the hand with a hatchet. Over the next two decades, this accident haunts Cory as a violation of the one condition that had given meaning to his life--his fatherhood.

Although Bobby grows to normal adulthood and manages perfectly well with prosthetics, the fact that neither he nor others will blame Cory only compounds the father's depression. Cory slips inevitably toward madness and, in a gothic conclusion, re-enacts his crime in a way that will ensure punishment the second time.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This early 20th century novel is largely a tale of complex family and love relationships. It is the story of two brothers who vie for the love of the same woman, a competition that nearly destroys the men's friendship but that also leads the narrative into adventures on the frontiers of the Canadian Rockies during the building of the transcontinental railroad.

One of the brothers is inspired by a country surgeon to enter medicine and the middle third of the book deals with the physician training system of the time. The reader is introduced to representatives of both the finest and the most immoral of practitioners and practices. Running from his broken love relationship, the newly minted physician travels to the frontier where he assumes a pseudonym and practices medicine in the railroad camps. His work is inspired and he becomes a folk hero.

In a parallel narrative, the second brother, now a minister, also goes west, while grieving the fracture in his relationship with his younger sibling. Neither knows that the other has relocated to the Rockies. The remainder of the story details the doctor's work and eventual reunion with his estranged brother.

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Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A middle aged woman goes backpacking for the first time in 14 years after losing her leg in an automobile accident. As she recounts the excursion, with its difficulties and exhilaration, she reflects on the ways her life was changed by losing her leg, and the emotional journey she has taken since the accident. She concludes by thinking about how to find power despite her vulnerability, how to adjust and accommodate, but never compromise.

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The Slaughterhouse

Schreck, Karen Halvorsen

Last Updated: Nov-23-1997
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A woman, Rose, describes her childhood during the depression as she struggled with issues of her own identity and her jealousy toward her younger sister, Sophie, who suffers from cerebral palsy and seizures. Rose watches as Sophie is born, as her parents argue, as Sophie is held closely by their mother during her seizures, and as Sophie is given two birthday parties each year. She fantasizes about how life might be if her sister were dead, and imagines her sister hanging from a rack like the animals at the slaughterhouse. Finally, she discovers that Sophie actually needs her and loves her.

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