Showing 111 - 120 of 206 annotations tagged with the keyword "Nature"

Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Collection (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

Fifteen selections--short stories, essays, and memoir--make up this collection. Two stories are notable: The Whistlers' Room and Atrium: October 2001 (see annotations). The title story is a translation and retelling of an obscure German tale published 75 years ago. Set in a military hospital in Germany during World War I, four soldiers share a common wound--throat injuries and laryngeal damage necessitating a tracheostomy for each man. This remarkable quartet of patients forges a fellowship of the maimed.

"Atrium: October 2001" describes the random meeting between a physician and a terminally ill teenager in the hospital atrium. The subject of death dominates their discussion. "Parable" chronicles an elderly doctor's efforts to comfort a dying man, and in the process, ease both their suffering.

Excerpts from Selzer's diary reveal much about the character of the author as well as the characters in his life. He also reminisces about growing up in Troy, New York. Approximately one-quarter of the book is devoted to Selzer's musings on works of art (sculpture and painting). Lighter fare includes a discussion of life behind the podium, a description of his home, and a new ending for A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

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Evidence of Things Unseen

Wiggins, Marianne

Last Updated: Oct-12-2004
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This book interweaves an American love story with the development and repercussions of x-ray technology and atomic energy. It is an intriguing and beautifully written story. The setting is the southeastern United States, where the male protagonist, Fos, meets and marries Opal. Fos is a returning World War I veteran when the story begins; the story ends some years after the atomic bomb is dropped in World War II.

Fos is stationed in France during World War I. His assignment is to produce chemical flares. He shares a trench bunker with "Flash," the regiment photographer. After the war is over, Fos and Flash open up a photography shop in Flash's hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. Fos is fascinated by natural phenomena such as phosphorescence, radiation, and the application of scientific discoveries for practical use. Flash is a good businessman and has a way with the ladies.

After Fos marries Opal, the three are in business together--Opal has accounting experience and handles the shop's "books." On the side, Fos and Opal have a traveling show that features an "x-ray box" where people can view the skeleton of their own feet. Opal is part of the show, on exhibit to demonstrate how this works as Fos x-rays her feet. A baby comes into their lives--they name him Lightfoot. The novel takes these characters and a few other connected figures through the 1920s into the Depression of the 1930s and formation of the Tennessee Valley Authority, to the work on the atomic bomb at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Fos is recruited by the government to work at Oak Ridge--to take photographs. To say any more about the plot would spoil the pleasure of reading this absorbing book.

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The Uses of Imperfection

McMahon, Ted

Last Updated: Jul-26-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

In "Breakdown" the narrator watches the bikers ahead of him glide effortlessly up the long hill. Halfway up, he downshifts, cranks hard, and eventually--stops. "Then dismount / and walk. At the crest / the road stretches flat, narrows out of sight. No bikes, no cars, no sound." (p. 18) This lonely moment embodies two aspects of Ted McMahon's poetry.

First, he acknowledges his (our) limited ability to live up to expectation, achieve the sought-after goal, or understand what is really happening in life. As in "Amniocentesis" (p. 15), we may convince ourselves that we are "prepared to embrace a life of sacrifice," but when finally confronted with the reality (e.g. a Down's syndrome baby), we lose our bearings and grow silent. What seems a sure ticket to happiness--for example, the "snug white Levis" woman who shares her heart with you at a "Writers' Conference" (p. 33)--turns out to be a false alarm: "I stood alone, / controlled, on twilight grass, observed / a fly, quivering in a web."

However, McMahon touches these moments of imperfection, not with explanations or suggestions for improvement, but with profound compassion. In "Satchitananda" (p. 49) he discovers the attributes of the Hindu God (being, awareness, and bliss) residing in the most ordinary daily activities. He stops his truck on a windy plain and reflects: "I'll settle to have sparked / a single flash of joy, to have erased / a single line of sorrow." (p. 48)

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David

Birney, (Alfred) Earle

Last Updated: Jul-26-2004
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

David tells the apparently fairly simple story of two young friends feeling their youth, their growing friendship, and their love for the mountainous outdoors of rural Canada. The narrator, unnamed until nearly the end of the poem, falls under the charismatic spell of David, the leader and more experienced climber of the two.

After introducing us to David, the narrator describes a particular climb they had been anticipating for months. During the ascent, the narrator slips. David saves him and then slips and falls himself, landing many feet below on a jagged rock that has broken both his fall and his back, leaving him paralyzed. David asks his friend to push him over the cliff citing paralysis as no way for someone like himself to live, i.e., in a wheelchair. The narrator acquiesces.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: History

Summary:

Dr. McKechnie begins his overview of the history of the practice of medicine in British Columbia with records of Coastal Native practices encountered by the first explorers of the Northwest Territory in the 18th century. This opening section of the work contains interesting folklore regarding some of the methodologies and medicinals utilized, and terminates in descriptions of the rites surrounding the initiation of a new Shaman.

Moving forward in time, the author explores the early naval medicine of the seamen and their captains, including the early intermingling of the explorers with the Coastal Indians. The plagues of smallpox, measles, syphilis, and tuberculosis attributed to the arrival on the western continent of organisms to which the natives were not immune are covered briefly.

The third portion of the book is devoted to the changes in medical practice on this particular frontier as the emerging science of the 19th century moved gradually westward. The final chapters cover the century of the great world wars and the progressive advances in medical science as they affected the residents and physicians of British Columbia.

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Annie and the Old One

Miles, Miska

Last Updated: Jun-14-2004
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Children's Literature

Summary:

A very old Navajo grandmother believes it is time her 10-year-old granddaughter, Annie, learns to weave. Gathering her family in the hogan, she asks each of them to choose a gift they wish to have (Annie’s eyes choose the weaving stick) as she announces to her family that when the weaving of the new rug is completed, she will go to Mother Earth.

Determined to delay her mother from finishing the rug, Annie plans her distractions. She acts out in school, letting the sheep out of their pen, and, most significantly, unravels at night what her mother had woven during the day. The adults catch on.

The Old One’s gentle explanations of nature’s ways--the inevitability of death and the ultimate connectedness of the whole universe--eventually comfort and inspire Annie: "The sun rose but it also set. The cactus did not bloom forever. Petals dried and fell to earth . . . She would always be a part of the earth, just as her grandmother had always been, just as her grandmother would always be, always and forever." Annie picks up her grandmother’s weaving stick, kneels at the loom and begins to weave "as her mother had done, as her grandmother had done."

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The Snows of Kilimanjaro

Hemingway, Ernest

Last Updated: May-12-2004
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Harry is a writer on safari in Africa with his wife, Helen. They are temporarily stranded when their truck breaks down from a burned-out bearing. While photographing a herd of waterbuck, Harry's knee is scratched by a thorn. Gangrene develops in his right leg. Harry attributes the problem to his failure to apply iodine to the wound.

The rotting leg has an awful stench but Harry denies any pain or horror. He is just angry and extremely fatigued. He resents his wife (and maybe even her wealth) and is verbally cruel to her. While he rests, she shoots a ram. Harry reminisces about the people and places in his past. He has multiple flashbacks and contemplates all the writing he had one day hoped to do about the many experiences he has accumulated in his life but realizes nothing more will be accomplished. He senses the heavy presence of death.

When a rescue plane finally arrives, Harry is transported over the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. But wait. It seems Harry was only dreaming. There is no rescue plane yet. Helen discovers that her husband has died in his sleep. Outside their tent, a hyena makes a strange noise that resembles the sound of a human being crying.

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Neighbour Rosicky

Cather, Willa

Last Updated: May-11-2004
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The diagnosis is delivered in the opening sentence: "a bad heart." Anton Rosicky is an immigrant to the United States from Czechoslovakia. The 65 year old man and his wife, Mary, own a farm in Nebraska. They have five sons and a daughter. Rosicky is an ordinary fellow with one remarkable quality--a genuine love for people. He is attached to his family, the land, and hard work. His physician, Doctor Ed Burleigh, writes a prescription for Rosicky and instructs him to avoid strenuous activities.

The young doctor is quite fond of Mr. and Mrs. Rosicky and speculates that tender and generous people like this couple are more interested in relishing life than getting ahead in it. Although he knows better, one day Rosicky overexerts himself raking thistles and bringing some horses into the barn. He experiences chest pain accompanied by shortness of breath. His daughter-in-law, Polly, helps him into bed and applies moist hot towels to his chest.

Unfortunately, Dr. Ed is out of town--his first vacation in seven years. Rosicky appears to recover from the episode but the following day after enjoying breakfast with his family, the chest pain recurs and he dies at home. When Dr. Ed returns from his trip, he stops at the graveyard near the farm. He realizes that the natural beauty and serenity of the landscape make a fitting final resting place for a farmer like Rosicky and a man whose life was not only rich with love but deeply fulfilling.

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Emergency

Johnson, Denis

Last Updated: May-11-2004
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

For three weeks the narrator has been working as a clerk in the emergency department. His good friend, Georgie, is a hospital orderly. Both men abuse drugs, and Georgie steals them from the hospital. The ER staff includes Nurse (an overweight woman who shakes) and the Family Service doctor (a physician with limited competence who is not well-liked).

At 3:30 A.M., a man named Terrence Weber arrives at the ER. He has a hunting knife stuck deep in his eye. Ironically, his other eye is artificial. Weber's wife apparently tried to blind him because he ogled the woman next door. The doctor immediately decides the situation is beyond his expertise and calls for an ophthalmologist, neurosurgeon, and anesthesiologist.

Meanwhile Georgie is prepping Weber for surgery. The drugged-up orderly, who cannot even tie his shoe at this point, somehow removes the knife by himself. Weber's vision is fine. Later on, the narrator and Georgie get lost while driving around in a pick-up truck without headlights. The truck runs over a jackrabbit on the road. Intent on making rabbit stew, Georgie cuts the animal open with the hunting knife he had earlier removed from Weber's eye. The rabbit is pregnant with eight miniature bunnies inside her.

Georgie decides to save the babies. Unfortunately the narrator forgets about the rabbits and accidentally squashes them to death. At the end of the story the two men encounter a hitchhiker who has gone AWOL from military service. Georgie promises to take him to Canada.

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The Laws of Invisible Things

Huyler, Frank

Last Updated: May-10-2004
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A child dies in the hospital shortly after the infectious disease consultant, Dr. Michael Grant, evaluates her. The 35-year-old physician has cause to be troubled by the patient's death. He failed to perform a careful examination, did not check the results of her most recent lab tests, and held off on ordering antibiotics. Although an autopsy was not performed, it is believed she died of sepsis.

Divorced and recently relocated to North Carolina, Dr. Grant is already depressed. Now he must worry about the possibility of a malpractice lawsuit. Jonas Williams, the father of the dead child, is also ill. He complains of fatigue, visual disturbances, confusion, night sweats, and fever. Jonas has developed unusual lesions in his throat and retina--white threads in a serpentine pattern. A biopsy of his oral lesion demonstrates the presence of osteoblasts and new bone formation. Dr. Grant becomes convinced he has stumbled onto a completely new infectious illness even though he cannot identify the causative organism.

Jonas experiences gastrointestinal bleeding as a result of a low platelet count. He dies in a trailer that has caught on fire. Dr. Grant soon develops the same symptoms as his patient. He remembers coming into contact with some of Jonas's blood. He is admitted to the hospital with massive gastrointestinal bleeding. His physician attributes the bleeding to ulcers, gastritis, and thrombocytopenia. Dr. Grant, however, believes the bleeding is due to the same mysterious disease that Jonas had.

The body of Jonas's daughter is exhumed, and there is anatomic evidence of the same bizarre changes that occurred in her father. Dr. Grant visits a cabin in the woods where Jonas had lived. He is looking for clues to the puzzling new illness. What he finds, however, is not an answer. Instead, it is a renewed appreciation for his life as well as the world around him.

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