Showing 111 - 120 of 251 annotations contributed by Duffin, Jacalyn

Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

The exquisite young artist, Angélique (Tautou) sends a rose to her lover, the cardiologist Loic Le Garrec (Le Bihan). She is planning a future with him; the only problem is that he is married. But he has promised to leave his wife. Angélique is little troubled that the couple are expecting a baby and when the pregnancy is lost following an accident, she believes the day will be soon.

Her medical student friend, David, worries that she is being used and is appalled by the accumulation of disappointments and slights that Angélique must endure. She falls apart, neglects herself and the home and exotic plants that she has been watching for friends, but when she hears that Loic has been accused of assault by a female patient, she is utterly disbelieving. The patient is found dead and the doctor falls under suspicion.

Rapid rewind, and the movie begins again with the rose, and by repeating a handful of earlier scenes, retells the same events from the perspective of the doctor. He has no idea who is the sender of the rose, and as the flowers, notes, and gifts accumulate he grows more distracted, even angry, and his wife is suspicious.

It emerges that Angélique and Loic have barely ever spoken to each other and that she actually volunteered for house-sitting next door, in order to be close to him. The accident that caused the miscarriage was Angélique’s attempt to kill his wife by running her down with a motor scooter. The patient who charged the doctor with assault was wrongly mistaken by him for the secret admirer; he struck her out of anger and fear. She presses charges against him and pursues him through the courts until she is murdered by Angélique.

But the doctor knows none of that. When Angélique attempts suicide with gas, he saves her life and she is all the more smitten. Gradually the doctor realizes her real identity and the police link her to the murder. She is sent to a psychiatric hospital.

Years pass. Loic and his wife have two beautiful children. Angélique is finally discharged with reassurance that she will be well as long as she takes her medicine. In the final scene, the caretaker moves a large cupboard to find all the pills that she had been prescribed over four years pasted to the wall in a larger-than-life portrait of Loic.

View full annotation

A Good Death

Courtemanche, Gil

Last Updated: Aug-02-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A French Canadian family gathers for Christmas around the ailing patriarch and his quiet wife. But it is dominated by anxiety over the father’s rigid Parkinson’s disease and a recent stroke that have robbed him of clear speech and movement.

Through the eyes of the son who is nearing sixty, the holiday is a painful obligation that must be endured; the toxic atmosphere contains an undeclared emergency. The son admits that he has never loved his father whom he compares to Stalin for his iron-fisted and undemonstrative ways. One of the dad’s greatest sins was stealing credit for the catch of a giant fish that had actually been landed by the son long ago.

Nor does the narrator like his siblings to whom he refers in epithets that convey his disparagement of their proclivities: the Banker, the Vegetarian, the Homeopath, the Medicals, the Buddhists. His young nephew – who has two names—William / Sam—genuinely cares for the feelings and well-being of others, especially the grandparents. The only other person who is granted these qualities is Isabelle, the much younger fiancée of the narrator, in whom he takes possessive pride, as if she exemplifies his own wisdom, taste, and youth.

Suddenly the narrator and William both realize that the patriarch ought to die and that they should help. To the horror of the siblings and with the blessing of his mother they embark on a plan to feed him everything he likes but should not have—and lots of it. Perversely the man improves. The story culminates in a fishing trip where the original sin was committed.

View full annotation

Sutton's Law

Orient, Jane; Wright, Linda

Last Updated: Jun-28-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Intern, Maggie Altman, begins her postgraduate training in a large Texas hospital where a new computerized system has been implemented to improve service. She pours heart and soul into her work, but her admissions always seem to be the sickest patients who keep dying, sometimes inexplicably. Maggie becomes suspicious of her colleagues and of Dr. Milton Silber, an irrascible, retired clinician with no fondness for the new technology. Silber also happens to be a financial genius. Overhearing conversations and finding puzzling papers, Maggie imagines a scam, in which her supervisors may be eliminating dying patients to reduce costs, improve statistics, and siphon funds to their own pockets.

The bad outcomes for Maggie's patients are noticed and criticized, and she is pressured to drop out, switch hospitals, or go back into research. She senses that the perpetrators are aware of her suspicions and send her the worst patients in an effort to eliminate her. She trusts no one. These worries are compounded by her own illness and her accidental discovery in the morgue of a traffic in unclaimed bodies. With the help of excellent clinical skills, true friends, Dr. Silber, and a new love interest who is a budding financial genius, she survives physical and emotional violence and solves the mystery of patient homicides, poisonings, and fraud.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

Born in Vienna, Alma Rosé (1906-1944) was a gifted violinist with an illustrious concert career. Her mother was the sister of composer, Gustav Mahler, and her famous father, Arnold, conducted orchestras. All the family members were non-observant Jews. Alma was talented, beautiful, audacious, and arrogant. After an unhappy early marriage to Czech violinist Vása Príhoda, she established a remarkable orchestra for women that toured Europe.

As the German Third Reich consolidated its power, her only brother, Alfred, fled to the USA. She managed to bring their widowed father to England, but displaced musicians crowded London making work difficult to find. Alma left her father and returned to the continent, living quietly as a boarder in Holland and giving house concerts when and where she could. She took lovers.

Despite the urging of her family and friends, she kept deferring a return to safety in England. In early 1943, she was arrested and transported to Drancy near Paris, thence to Auschwitz six months later. Initially sent to a barrack for sterilization research, she revealed her musical brilliance and was removed to marginally better accommodations and allowed to assemble an orchestra of women players.

The hungry musicians were granted precarious privileges, but Alma became obsessed with their progress and insisted on a grueling schedule of rehearsal and perfection. Some said that she believed that survival depended on the quality of their playing; others recognized that the music, like a drug, took her out of the horror of her surroundings.

In April 1944, she died suddenly of an acute illness thought to have been caused by accidental food poisoning. In a bizarre and possibly unique act of veneration for Auschwitz, her body was laid "in state" before it was burned. Most members of her camp orchestra survived the war.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A group of eight women gather for a joint consultation with Dr. Kailey Madrona who is a devotée and colleague of the research endocrinologist, Dr. Jerilynn Prior, a professor at University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Madrona explains that she has arranged for the unorthodox group encounter because she will be leaving practice to pursue graduate studies in medical history.

Dr. Madrona leads an open-ended discussion on the physiological changes associated with perimenopause. Following the controversial research of Prior, she emphasizes that the symptoms are owing to the unbalanced rise in estrogen levels during perimenopause—a period leading up to the cessation of menstruation and continuing for twelve months after the last flow.

Some women patients are skeptical, because they have been placed on estrogen ‘replacement” medication, or they have read that their symptoms are owing to the waning of estrogen. The doctor describes the results of various trials about supplmentary estrogen, including the 2002 Journal of the American Medical Association report. She invites them to keep detailed diaries of their cycles and symptoms.

One by one the women return for private consultation, physical examination, discussion and another follow up visit. Although they have reached roughly the same physiological moment in life, they are a diverse group with different symptoms and needs. Darlene, an angry nurse, is suspicious and non-compliant. Beverley, an Asian immigrant is still hoping to become pregnant. A lesbian wishes to control her moods and hot flashes. A very hard-working waitress needs to understand her strange lack of energy. A wiry, lean athelete wants to improve her performance and is irritated by the inexplicable alterations in her abilities. Others are plagued by sweats, nausea, or migraines. They all are confused about sex.

Dr. Madrona listens to them carefully, examines them with special attention to their breasts, not their genitalia, and recommends treatment with progesterone for everyone. She also urges weight gain for most and readily volunteers personal information about her own perimenopause. All but the nurse eventually comply and are relieved of their symptoms. At the end of a year they meet for a pot-luck dinner to celebrate their recovered health and thank their doctor. Beverley is pregrant.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Chicago architect Stourley Kracklite (Brian Dennehy) and his much younger, beautiful wife, Louisa (Chloe Webb), arrive in Italy to work for a year preparing an exhibition on his hero, the post-revolutionary French architect, Etienne-Louis Boullée (d. 1799). They make love as the train enters Italy; however, he scarcely looks at his wife again. On the evening of his welcoming dinner--set in the piazza in front of the Pantheon--Kracklite is wracked by the first of the endless, excruciating pains in his belly.

Louisa is pregnant, but in boredom and frustration, she takes an Italian lover, Caspasian (Lambert Wilson). The dashing, young architect has designs on the American's exhibition as well as on his wife; his photographer sister, Flavia, shares the intrigue. Kracklite entertains the hypothesis that his unfaithful wife is trying to poison him. A doctor tells him that the sinister pains are due to his lifestyle, but he does not believe this diagnosis and drifts into a subdued paranoia with delusions of persecution and of grandeur.

Obsessed with the shapes and contents--the architecture and the anatomy--of bellies in sculpture, painting, and photography, Kracklite photocopies ever larger and larger images which he "maps" on to his own prodigious abdomen. He writes postcards to Boulleé pouring out his fears. He identifies with Roman emperors, Christ, and Isaac Newton, to whom Boullée designed a never-constructed, hemispheric cenotaph, the belly-like model of which appears often, recapitulating Kracklite's obsession and Louisa's pregnancy.

After he learns he has cancer, he ends his life by falling backward in a Christ-like posture through a window during the opening ceremony of his Boullée project. At that same moment, his wife gives birth to their child, having cut the ribbon/cord to open the hemispherical exhibition.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

George Stewart had always loved his best friend's wife, Catherine. After her doctor husband, Jerome Martel, is presumed to have died in a Nazi prison camp, George and Catherine marry, respectful of Martel's memory and mindful of her chronic illness. The central crisis of the story, which is introduced in the first chapter, is the surprising return of Martel a decade after his death.

Martel still burns with the passion for social justice that took him to war in Europe. The long story of their lives is narrated by George through a series of flashbacks and reminiscences, in which Catherine's illness is ever present.

View full annotation

The Calcutta Chromosome

Ghosh, Amitav

Last Updated: Feb-15-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the not too distant future, the morose Egyptian, Antar, works in New York City, as a home-based computer employee, monitoring artifacts which he can study holographically through cyber space. He conjures up the I.D. card of one L. Murugan, who had supposedly disappeared in Calcutta back in 1995. Murugan is/was an expert on Nobel laureate Ronald Ross, discoverer of the role of the anopheles mosquito in the transmission of malaria.

Through flashbacks to the intense week of his disappearance and to episodes in the late nineteenth century, the virtual Murugan roams Calcutta trying desperately to understand and expose a subtext of counter science in Ross's laboratory. He is joined by Urmila, a journalist whose life is endangered by their collaboration.

Murugan theorizes that Ross was sloppy, intent on fame and fortune though a simplistic rendering of the parasite-host relationship; his discoveries were fed to him by others and he was blind to the spiritualistic ambitions of Mangala, his Indian laboratory technologist. Conceiving of the powerful significance of malaria prevention and control, Mangala held different views on the purpose and means of investigating the disease and, Murugan thinks, she anticipated the later discovery of another Nobel laureate, J. Wagner-Jauregg, in the use of malaria for the treatment of syphilis. The travels of Murugan and Urmila imply that these views are still there awaiting their own discovery.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

The book opens with a thought "exercise": thirteen short essays, each in a different national voice and beginning "We, the people of a nation . . . " The honest, intelligent "speakers" love their countries and traditions; however, they try to express the ugly truths about their homelands as challenges for the future.

For example, American smugness over its know-how and wealth combines with American failure to recognize the resentment sparked elsewhere by these same attributes. Similarly, the mutual intolerance of Canada's linguistic and religious duality is portrayed as a grotesque irony. The U.S.S.R. has exchanged an old tyranny for a new; Japan must face the issue of controlling its population, if it is to control its impulse to aggression.

Chisholm then returns to his role as a socially committed psychiatrist who hopes to avert a war that could annihilate the human species. World aggression, he writes, is caused by the "anxiety" that emerges from intolerance typifying narrow parental guidance and even narrower systems of education and religion. People must learn to be comfortable with differences in population, race, language, and wealth. The message is simple: "anxiety" leads to "aggression." The book ends with a ideal curriculum for "world citizenship," surprisingly different from any currently in use.

View full annotation

The Citadel

Cronin, A. J. (Archibald Joseph)

Last Updated: Feb-15-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In 1921, the twenty-four year-old Scottish medical graduate, Andrew Manson, takes up an assistant’s position in a small Welsh mining town. He is idealistic, but he quickly learns that his training is inadequate and that his hemiplegic employer will never return to practice. Manson must do all the work for a pittance and bad food. He befriends another assistant, the surgeon Phillip Denny, whose fatal flaw is devotion to drink. Together they solve the town’s problem with typhoid by blowing up the sewer.

Manson’s escape comes in a new job in a larger town and marriage to the equally idealistic Christine. She encourages him to continue his studies and to conduct research on the relationship between dust inhalation and tuberculosis. The results include higher degrees and international recognition, but they also bring about the wrath of the town’s antivivisectionists. To add to the gloom, Christine looses a much wanted pregnancy and the ability to have children.

The Mansons leave Wales for London, where Manson hopes to extend his research within a government agency. Quickly disillusioned by bureaucracy, he is lured into society practice and slowly abandons his ideals in exchange for prestige and wealth. Christine is increasingly unhappy, but his response is annoyance with her and an affair with a married woman. When one of his new associates botches an elective operation on a trusting patient, he realizes the colleague is nothing more than a society abortionist and that he and his new friends are little better.

He decides to sell his practice and renews contact with Denny to establish a group consulting practice "on scientific principles" in a carefully chosen Midland town. He also helps the tubercular daughter of an old friend to an unorthodox (but effective) pneumothorax in a clinic run by Stillman, an American who does not have an MD. Just as he and Christine have rediscovered joy in each other and their future together, she is killed in a freak accident. Only days later in the depths of grief, he is brought before the General Medical Council on charges of unprofessional conduct laid by his former associates. He acquits himself brilliantly and leaves with his old friend Denny for work in the Midlands.

View full annotation