Showing 1061 - 1070 of 1229 Fiction annotations
Summary:A woman who works at a rehabilitation center for the blind reflects on the deaths of the people around her, clients as well as patients. She recounts the reaction of the staff to the death of a well-loved employee of the center whose name the narrator doesn't recognize. As she assists the blind clients at the funeral home, she suddenly realizes she did know the dead woman, but never had known her name. The narrator reflects on how a sight-impaired friend of hers, Vange, approaches life with supreme attentiveness, and never misses any details. The colleague's funeral reminds the narrator that living means being more like Vange.
Allison Shandling is a bright 14-year-old with an autistic twin brother, Adam. She has spent her life being the "good" child, accommodating to her brother's idiosyncratic behavior, learning to weather public curiosity, support her parents, and not cause them further anxiety.
When her parents decide to reconnect with a religious community, she finds that one of the school bullies is the rabbi's son, Harry. He teases her mercilessly about her brother, especially after his father, the rabbi, takes Adam under his wing and tutors him for his bar mitzvah. When Harry is paralyzed from the waist down in a sporting accident he retreats even further into bitterness, but Allison finds herself drawn to him nevertheless.
Against her own "better judgment," she pursues a friendship with Harry, learns that the source of much of his anger lies in the death of his mother and his father's distance, and that the two of them share a sense of being marginalized in families where other critical needs have overshadowed their own very ordinary needs. Eventually friendship blossoms into a first romance as well as inciting both to initiate new conversations with their parents.
The threat of biotechnological warfare and/or terrorism is the focus of this carefully researched and riveting novel by the author of The Hot Zone. The term "science fiction" doesn't quite do justice to this tale which lies just to the other side of Preston's usual domain of literary nonfiction. Though the particulars of this story of a genetic engineer who designs lethal virus bombs to thin the population and the counterterrorist group of scientists who attempt to stop him are fictional, the possibilities of such threats are real.
The counterterrorists are a motley and sometimes contentious group of recruits from the FBI, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the U.S. military. Their agendas and methods differ, but the immediate death threat to the unsuspecting inhabitants of New York and Washington D.C. unifies them into an effective if not always efficient team. They discover the virus when five cases appear of what seems to be an acute and horrifying permutation of a rare neurological dysfunction that induces violent seizures and compulsive self-destruction by chewing on one's own flesh. The virus turns out to be a graft that could only have been produced by artificial means.
The search for the "mad scientist" with equipment capable of this sophisticated work takes weeks during which a handful of people have to live with the secret that a potential pandemic could literally explode in a local subway. The resolution, while in some ways satisfying, hardly dispels the uneasy implications which invite readers not only to serious reflection on our collective attitudes toward weapons research and development, but to activism.
Laurence "Tubby" Passmore is a successful scriptwriter for a television sitcom, in his mid-fifties, married and the father of two grown children. He is indecisive and inexplicably depressed, unhappy with himself, his fat body, bald head, wonky knee, and impending impotence. At least, he is confident in his marriage to Sally, an attractive, self-made academic who enjoys sex; on weekly jaunts to London, he maintains a supportive but platonic relationship with the earthy Amy.
Seeking to alleviate his woes, he dabbles in acupuncture and aromatherapy and regularly attends a blind physiotherapist and a woman psychiatrist; the latter counsels him to write a journal. His wife suddenly announces her wish for a divorce and the television network invokes a contractual obligation to make unwelcome demands on his skills. These events shatter his unappreciated but complacent "angst" and deepen his identity crisis.
Laurence scrambles to rediscover himself. He reads the gloomy, Kierkegaard--because he identified with the titles--and he travels to the existentialist's Copenhagen. He pushes the boundaries of his relationship with Amy in a maudlin trip to Tenerife. He befriends a philosophic squatter, called "Grahame" (with an "e" no doubt to distinguish him from Graham Green whose "writing is a form of therapy" is an epigraph to this book). He flies wildly off to Los Angeles hoping to rekindle a one-night stand "manqué." Finally he recalls and tracks the Irish Catholic, Maureen, his first girlfriend from forty years before. Maureen has suffered too--the death of her son and breast cancer; he finds her on the Road to Compostella.
The narrator recalls a boyhood encounter with Rab, a majestic dog. Rab causes the lad to make friends with his master, James Noble, a simple horse-cart driver. Six years later, James brings his beautiful old wife, Ailie, to the hospital where the narrator is now a medical student. She has breast cancer and the surgeon tells her that it must be operated the following day. James and the dog are allowed to remain nearby.
Ailie endures the operation in brave silence, commanding silent respect from a lively group of students. James nurses her tenderly, but she develops a fever and dies a few days later. Shortly after her burial, he too falls ill and dies. Rab refuses to eat, becomes hostile, and is killed by the new driver.
Geek Love is the saga of a traveling carnival, the owners of which try to save it from financial failure by using ingested chemicals and toxins to create the birth of amazing freaks for the show. The outcome is a family that is both proud and vain about its specialness. The narrative unfolds the intricacies of greed and jealousy that tear the family asunder, resulting in the deaths of some members, the madness of others, and the escape of one.
It is Olympia, the hunchback albino dwarf, who lives on to tell the story of the Binewski clan. Central to the heyday of the carnival is Doc P, a physician of questionable credentials who performs bizarre operations in the traveling hospital that moves with the carnival. The story moves relentlessly toward a climax and denouement that is sufficiently unimaginable to be consistent with the cast of characters.
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.
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.
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.
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.