Showing 1081 - 1090 of 1213 Fiction annotations

The Last Gentleman

Percy, Walker

Last Updated: Jul-22-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Williston (Will) Barnett, the damaged son of an old Southern family, is the protagonist of this rambling, picaresque novel. While living in New York, Will meets Kitty McVaught, a young Alabama woman whose father owns the world's largest Chevrolet agency. Will, who suffers from bouts of amnesia and fugue states, follows Kitty back to Alabama and meets her family, including her mother, who believes the South lost the Civil War as a result of a Jewish conspiracy; her older brother Sutter, a failed physician and self-proclaimed pornographer; her sister Val, a devoted Roman Catholic who works among the poor black children; and a 16 year old brother Jamie, who is terminally ill.

Will's mission in this novel is to discover why his father committed suicide when Will was 12 years old, and thereby achieve some healing of his own memories, but most of the action in the novel involves various members of the McVaught family, especially Sutter and Val, who represent the warfare between animal desire (Sutter) and angelic spirit (Val) in this fallen world. The novel's climactic scene takes place in Santa Fe, where Jamie undergoes a deathbed conversion. Afterward, Will presumably returns to Alabama to marry Kitty and do something constructive with his life.

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The Horseman on the Roof

Giono, Jean

Last Updated: Jul-03-1997
Annotated by:
Marta, Jan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Angelo Pardo, an idealistic young Piedmontese freedom fighter and cavalry officer, is living in exile in Provence and making his way to join his best friend in Manosque, when a cholera epidemic transforms the countryside, towns, and social structure of the region. By turns, he aids an altruistic doctor in futile attempts to save the dying, lives as a fugitive on the roofs of Manosque, helps a nun to dispose of the dead, and accompanies a beautiful young woman, Pauline, to her home near Gap. His adventures illustrate the transformations produced by an epidemic and the means taken for survival.

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Hydrophobia

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Apr-23-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Nilov and Kuprianov are returning from a hunting trip and stop for a meal at the mill. An old man tells them about the mad wolf that has been terrorizing the village. They make light of the tale that there is a man in the village who can cure hydrophobia (rabies). Later, Nilov goes out for an evening walk. Suddenly, he sees a suspicious shadow--the wolf!

Nilov doesn't have a weapon with him. When the wolf gets close, the hunter grabs him by the neck. Ultimately, Nilov's cries for help are answered and the wolf killed, but not before he inflicts a deep bite on Nilov's shoulder. Nilov is terrified of contracting hydrophobia and goes first to the folk healer and then to a local physician, Dr. Ovchinnikov. Ovchinnikov reassures him that he almost certainly won't get rabies; after all, the wolf bit him through his clothing and he bled a lot, so the poison "probably flowed out with the blood."

In the first version of this story (1886), Nilov was so delighted that he paid Ovchinnikov 500 rubles, went merrily along his way, and a year later had not contracted the disease. In the later version (1899-1901), Chekhov changed the ending: Nilov embraces Ovchinnikov and leaves in his carriage, thinking about what a great tale his encounter with the wolf will be.

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Sister Gin

Arnold, June

Last Updated: Apr-03-1997
Annotated by:
Poirier, Suzanne

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Su, a highly regarded journalist in a southern city, is going through a rocky menopause. In addition, her longtime partnership with her lover, Bettina, is faltering; she is having trouble writing; and she finds herself falling in love with octogenarian Mamie Carter, whose bridge club also metes vigilante justice on perpetrators of domestic violence. Into Su's hectic life appears Sister Gin, a mysterious figure who leaves notes challenging Su's work and sense of herself.

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The Love Hunter

Hassler, Jon

Last Updated: Apr-03-1997
Annotated by:
Poirier, Suzanne

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Larry is dying of multiple sclerosis. He walks only with assistance, suffers severe depression, is beginning to be incontinent, and has attempted suicide. His best friend, Chris, decides to take him duck hunting, a sport that has been central to their close relationship. This, however, will be their last trip: Chris has decided to drown Larry in the marsh, as a last act of his love.

As this novel retraces the growth of their friendship, it also traces the growth of Chris's love for Larry's wife, Rachel. Rachel has been an almost saintly caregiver for her husband, weathering his increasing disability and despair, while struggling to maintain her own identity and peace of mind.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Miranda's narrative opens with a fretful dream foreshadowing death as the first hint that she is becoming ill during the course of the deadly influenza epidemic of 1917-18. The tightly woven story takes the reader through a month of Miranda's life as a newspaper theatre columnist, a young single woman struggling with a relationship with a soldier about to be "shipped over," and an observer of the World War I frenzy that engulfed America.

The final pages are made up of Miranda's intermittent delirious dreams and perceptions from the depth of her illness. She slowly recovers, only to learn that her Adam has succumbed to the same illness and that the war has ended.

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The Moviegoer

Percy, Walker

Last Updated: Mar-25-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

John Binkerson ("Binx") Bolling is a young man from a "good" New Orleans family who for some years has devoted himself to money, sex, and watching movies. During Mardi Gras, when the novel begins, he wakes up to the vague feeling that something more is needed in his life.

We meet his Aunt Emily, a Southern noblewoman, and his cousin Kate, who is said to be somewhat unstable since her fiance's death some years earlier; she is currently engaged to the virtually invisible Walter. The action also takes us to the bayous, where Binx visits his remarried (Catholic) mother and her family, including his sickly adolescent stepbrother, Lonnie. (Binx's father died in World War II; Binx, himself, has survived service in the Korean Conflict.)

Subsequently, Binx takes a trip to Chicago with Kate; on the train she offers to have sex with him, but he refuses. Binx and Kate must then respond to Lonnie's unexpected death. In the end Binx decides to give up his business as a bond dealer and go to medical school, and he and Kate decide to marry.

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In the Penal Colony

Kafka, Franz

Last Updated: Mar-24-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

An explorer visits the penal colony, where an officer demonstrates to him the Harrow, an instrument used to inflict capital punishment. The Harrow is an extraordinarily elegant instrument: the condemned man lies face-down on a Bed, while a complex system of needles inscribes the commandment he has broken (e.g. HONOR THY SUPERIORS) on his back. The needles pierce deeper and deeper until the prisoner dies. In the process of dying, however, the condemned man finally understands the nature of justice and his punishment. His face is transfigured, a sight edifying to all those who watch. The officer begins to demonstrate the Harrow on a prisoner condemned to die because he was sleeping on duty.

The machine was conceived and developed by the former Commandant. It soon becomes clear that the explorer does not approve of the death-machine and that he feels morally bound to express this disapproval to the new Commandant, who is already known to have serious questions about using the Harrow as a method of punishment. Suddenly, the officer removes the condemned man from the Bed and takes his place. Before doing so, he adjusts the machine to inscribe "BE JUST." The Harrow begins its grisly work on the officer's back, but malfunctions and goes to pieces--but not before the self-condemned officer has died.

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The Sea and Poison

Endo, Shusako

Last Updated: Mar-21-1997
Annotated by:
Fefferman, Stanley

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

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This story, set in a hospital in a Japan demoralized by Allied air-raids, concerns an intern, Dr. Suguro, who is coopted by an ambitious senior surgeon to participate in medical experiments involving vivisection of captured American airmen. The experiments are to determine how much lung tissue can be removed before the patient dies, how much saline solution, and how much air can be injected into the blood before death occurs. Ostensibly this knowledge will improve treatment of tuberculosis which is ravaging the country. The real motivation arises from the brutality of the military, from competition among hospital department heads, and from an atmosphere of nihilism in the face of almost certain defeat by the Allies.

Dr. Suguro's acquiescence humiliates him. Paralyzed by moral conflict into non-action in the operating room, he succumbs to deeper shame and humiliation. The novel begins many years after the event, when a narrator comes as a patient to Dr. Suguro's dilapidated clinic.

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The Sea and Poison

Endo, Shusako

Last Updated: Mar-21-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

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

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In this short novel, published in the 1950’s by a popular Japanese fiction writer, the themes of cruelty, moral weakness, and contempt for human life in a medical school are portrayed. In a somewhat awkward series of narrations with flashbacks within flashbacks, the reader is introduced to the characters whose participation in wartime atrocities will be studied. Japan is suffering from the ravages near the end of the war. There is little food, daily bombing, and a general sense of futility.

The two surgical interns, Suguro and Toda, are the low men on a totem pole of power. Their aging chief is one of two contenders for the Dean’s position. He and his assistants devise methods of gaining attention for the promotion which include risky surgical procedures and, ultimately, vivisection experiments on American prisoners. The story line is carried by the acceleration of evil actions as the pressure for power increases. The motivations and internal deliberations of the two interns and one nurse whose characters are explored in some depth provide the human tensions.

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