Showing 111 - 120 of 192 annotations tagged with the keyword "Alcoholism"

My Friend Leonard

Frey, James

Last Updated: Jan-30-2006
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Note that this annotation contains spoilers. The sequel to A Million Little Pieces (see this database), Frey's follow-up memoir begins with James serving time in an Ohio prison for crimes he had committed while an addict. On his release, he goes to Chicago where he plans to reunite with his girlfriend, Lilly, and start a new life. As soon as he arrives at the halfway house where she was living, he discovers that she had committed suicide the night before. Shattered again, he tries to establish himself in Chicago without relapsing (with notable bravado: working as a bouncer in various bars).

His friend and "father" Leonard, a mobster who unofficially adopted him during their stint in rehab together, as chronicled in A Million Little Pieces, tries to help him get on his feet financially. After a period as a runner for the mob, James decides to move to Los Angeles to become a writer, with some success. Leonard remains a benevolent father-figure and as their friendships develops, the larger-than-life Leonard and his mob henchman meet James's friends, his family, his girlfriends, even his girlfriends' families--until Leonard disappears. James eventually locates Leonard, and discovers that Leonard is gay, has AIDS, and the two of them spend Leonard's last few days together.

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What Patients Taught Me

Young, Audrey

Last Updated: Jan-17-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This collection of stories describes "a medical student's journey" (the subtitle) through the difficult terrain of clinical education. In Audrey Young's case, this is also a geographical odyssey from Seattle to Swaziland to Pocatello, Idaho, as she completes her University of Washington clinical rotations and electives. In one sense the main characters of these narratives are the patients the author encounters in clinics and hospitals. As she writes in the Preface, "Patients teach things that the wisest and most revered physicians cannot, and their lessons are in this book."

In another sense, of course, Dr. Young herself is the central character of these stories; this is an account of her journey into doctoring. The author first takes us to Bethel, a Yupik Eskimo town on the Bering seacoast of Alaska, where she had her initiation into clinical experiences in the form of a summer preceptorship. There she learns that patients are far different from textbook examples, as she confronts the social and cultural factors that influence illness and its amenability to treatment. We follow the author to assignments throughout the WWAMI network. WWAMI is the University of Washington's decentralized clinical training program (Wyoming, Washington, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho).

In Spokane she delivers a baby for the first time, supervised by an opera-loving attending physician. In Pocatello she takes care of her first critically ill neonate. In Missoula her life becomes "one of resigned solitude" in her internal medicine clerkship, where she experiences sleep deprivation and experiences sunlight only "through dusty windows."

During her fourth year, the author finds herself treating desperately ill AIDS patients without a supervising physician (he had gone to Zaire for a funeral and might be back the following week) and also without anti-retroviral drugs. However, it is in Swaziland that she learns the deep power and dignity of medicine, as exemplified by a patient who invites her to a dinner in her honor that requires killing one of his precious chickens.

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Morphine

Long, David

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Gerald Wilcox is an otolaryngologist who lives with his wife and daughter in a small town in Montana in 1959. Dr. Wilcox has a weakness for women, alcohol, and, lately, morphine (with which he injects himself about once every six weeks). He enjoys writing in his journal almost every evening yet rarely reviews what he has previously written.

Although high on morphine, Dr. Wilcox repays a debt by making a house call late one night to treat a young boy with mastoiditis. On returning home, the doctor decides to bake a coffee cake for his wife at 5 o'clock in the morning while musing on what will happen to his journals after he dies.

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My Mother Dying

Johnson, Hillary

Last Updated: Aug-26-2005
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The title of this variegated narrative hardly does it justice. Though some of the most eloquent passages are about the lingering death of the author's mother, Ruth Johnson, from esophageal cancer, it is, just as centrally, the writer's memoir of growing up with the woman she has just seen through her final years of diminishment and loss, and commentary on her mother's art as testimony to her quirky, original, unconstrained, sometimes jaundiced, often hilarious view of the human comedy.

Hillary Johnson returned to Minneapolis from New York to be with her mother and stepfather after years of only intermittent contact and in the process of reentering her mother's life, came to reassess her own. Ruth chain-smoked, drank freely, lived spontaneously, painted uninhibitedly (40 illustrations include examples of her artwork) and often bestowed her art without price wherever it was appreciated. She was a local celebrity and the daughter, who has achieved her own success, finds in her mother's life a new measure of her own. In retrospect, she recognizes the costs, both to her mother and to herself, of the bohemian way of life she knew as a child, and the pain she didn't at the time fully recognize as such.

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Careful

Carver, Raymond

Last Updated: Aug-02-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Lloyd moves out of the house after a serious discussion with his wife, Inez. He rents a small place for himself and tries to limit his consumption of alcohol. Unfortunately, Lloyd continues to drink three or four bottles of champagne a day. About two weeks later, Inez pays him a visit. She needs to speak to him about money and other things.

That same morning, Lloyd wakes up and realizes his right ear is plugged with wax. He experiences difficulty hearing and trouble with balance. To no avail, Inez attempts to remove the ear wax with a nail file wrapped with tissue. She next instills warm baby oil in Lloyd's ear, and after awhile his hearing returns.

While Inez is still there, she comes across an open bottle of champagne that Lloyd has hidden in the bathroom. Inez decides she will return some time to have a talk with him. After she leaves, Lloyd sits on the sofa and watches television. Although it is the middle of the afternoon, he is wearing pajamas and drinking champagne straight from the bottle.

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Wild Honey

Chekhov, Anton; Frayn, Michael

Last Updated: May-09-2005
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

According to the Soviet version, in 1921 Russian scholars discovered the manuscript of a "lost" play by Chekhov among his papers in a safety deposit box in a bank in Moscow. In reality, the play wasn’t lost at all. During the turmoil of the Revolution in 1918, Maria Chekhov, Anton’s sister, had placed in the safety deposit box papers and manuscripts that she considered particularly valuable.

Subsequently, she was unable to travel to Moscow from her home in Yalta until 1921, because of the continuing Civil War in southern Russia. By the time she did return to Moscow, the Communists had "liberated" her brother’s safety deposit box and made their amazing discovery. The title page of the manuscript was missing, so scholars named the play "Platonov" after its major protagonist.

"Platonov" is a huge wreck of a play with numerous characters and subplots that would require about six hours to perform. It is obviously Chekhov’s earliest known play. The majority belief is that it was written between 1880 and 1882, during his first or second year of medical school. Most critics stress its many dramatic faults. However, as Michael Frayn points out in his introduction to "Wild Honey," the play is more remarkable for its strengths than its weaknesses, especially considering that a 21 or 22-year-old medical student wrote it. By carefully pruning the underbrush, Frayn has created a clearly Chekhovian comedy that takes perhaps two and a half hours to perform.

The story takes place in a provincial country estate (so what else is new?), where the widowed landowner returns for the summer after spending the winter months in Moscow. All the local friends and hangers-on gather to greet her, including among others two elderly suitors, the district doctor, and Platonov (the schoolteacher) and his wife. The widow wants to have an affair with Platonov--in fact, three women, one of them married, vie for Platonov’s attention; while Platonov, for the most part, tries to remain faithful to his wife.

The first scene of the second act is a classic comedy of errors. It takes place at night in the forest, just outside Platonov’s house where his wife is sleeping. Anna Petrovna, the landowner, appears out of the darkness and wants to spirit Platonov off to the summerhouse to make hay. But various other characters, some of them drunk and some sober, keep interrupting this rendezvous. One of them is Sofya, married to Platonov’s best friend, who wants to run away with him. The comings and goings in this scene are hilarious--reminiscent of one of Shakespeare’s comedies in which each character misinterprets what every other character says or does.

The play ends, though, on a dark note, or at least a sobering note. Platonov’s wife has left him due to these misunderstandings, and each of the three other women is closing in for the (metaphorical) kill. He decides to run away, and the play ends as he is running down the tracks distractedly, not paying any attention to the train that overtakes him from behind and kills him. This is not a tragic death; it’s funny, but also very sad. Platonov is, after all, a good man, even though weakness and indecision led to his downfall and meaningless death.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

In four lengthy chapters, the biographies of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert are carefully presented. Special attention is given to health, both physical and psychological, throughout life and at its end. Autopsy information is included. In particular, the author emphasizes the impact of illness on the composers' relationships with family members and doctors, and on their musical composition.

Evidence is derived from a wealth of primary sources, often with long citations from letters, poetry, musical scores, prescriptions, diaries, the remarkable "chat books" of Beethoven. Neumayr also takes on the host of other medical biographers who have preceded him in trying to retrospectively 'diagnose' these immortal dead.

Late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Vienna emerges as a remarkable city of musical innovation and clinical medicine. The composers' encounters with each other link these biographies. Similarly, many patrons, be they aristocrats or physicians, appear in more than one chapter, such as the Esterhazy family and Dr Anton Mesmer.

The disease concepts of the era, prevalent infections, and preferred therapies are treated with respect. Rigid public health rules in Vienna concerning burial practices meant that ceremonies could not take place in cemeteries and may explain why some unusual information is available and why other seemingly simple facts are lost.

Biographical information about the treating physicians is also given, together with a bibliography of secondary sources, and an index of specific works of music cited.

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Sweet Thursday

Steinbeck, John

Last Updated: May-05-2005
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Returning to the scene of Cannery Row (see this database), made so famous in the eponymous novel, Steinbeck finds a few of his familiar old characters (notably Doc and Mack) and some new ones inhabiting a world that appears to have changed little during the intervening years, despite the closing of the canneries and a World War. Mack and the boys, still up to their usual self-sabotaging shenanigans, collude with Fauna, the proprietor of the local brothel, to bring together Suzy, a new prostitute recently arrived to Cannery Row, and an increasingly lonely and frustrated Doc.

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First, Body

Thon, Melanie Rae

Last Updated: May-03-2005
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Sid Elliott is an alcoholic Vietnam veteran who works as an Emergency Room janitor. His lover, Roxanne, is a drug addict. Their relationship deteriorates until Roxanne leaves. After trying to stop a patient from banging her head on the wall, Sid is transferred from the ER down to the morgue. When the body of Gloria Luby, a 326 pound woman, is brought in, Sid decides to try and move her himself, repectfully, rather than rolling her with the help of an orderly. She is too heavy: they fall, and Sid is trapped under her body, his knee smashed. The story ends with Sid in the hospital, after knee surgery, visited by the phantoms of Gloria Luby, his father, and Roxanne.

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Children Underground

Belzberg, Edet

Last Updated: Jan-31-2005
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

After the overthrow of the tyrannical Nicolae Ceaucescu in December, 1989, the world became aware of the horrendous conditions in which so many Romanian children were living. Thousands of handicapped and able-bodied children were living in squalid "orphanages" and thousands more, numbering at least 20,000, were living on the streets. A combination of crushing poverty and disastrous state policies regarding contraception and child care contributed to one of the worst tragedies of modern Europe.

This documentary film focuses on the lives of a group of children living in a Bucharest underground station, the oldest in her late teens, the youngest barely past toddlerhood. The camera captures how these children live, and the ways in which they care for each other and for themselves as they endure violence and abuse, huff paint fumes from paper bags, and try to survive.

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