Showing 121 - 130 of 141 annotations contributed by Willms, Janice

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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Heart Transplant

Holub, Miroslav

Last Updated: Feb-06-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In typically terse poetic structure, utilizing fresh new images, Holub visualizes removal and replacement of a human heart during a transplant procedure. He describes the throb of the extracorporeal circulation mechanics as an "inaudible New World Symphony" as he elevates the imagery of the hole in the chest where once resided the "king of Blood" transiently into the cosmos. With the arrival of the "new heart," the imagery again becomes earth bound: the structure is sewn in place, the beats resume and the "curves jump like / synthetic sheep" as the EKG rhythm resumes.

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Parasite

Holub, Miroslav

Last Updated: Feb-05-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

On surface, this metaphorically endowed poem details the life cycle of a tapeworm, beginning as a tiny resident in the "protective slime" of mucosae, eventually outgrowing the host, and overrunning the environment as it attains a "philosophical dimension / in which it's the only form of matter. . . . " The parasite shrinks again into "little spores of embecile agreement" which wait for another chance, another cycle of growth and power. The parasite metaphor works beautifully for a wide variety of social and political phenomena the poem does not identify.

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Welcome to My Country

Slater, Lauren

Last Updated: Feb-03-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Slater subtitles her book, A Therapist's Memoir of Madness. Embedded in this definition are two elements: a psychotherapist's composite experiences with a small cadre of patients and the therapist's personal experience with a mental disorder. The author draws the reader into a fascinating series of anecdotes based on therapeutic encounters.

These stories are as much, if not more, about the therapist's deepest responses to her patients than about the patient him or herself. This particular approach adds an element of confession to the work that one does not often find in clinical studies. And, finally, Slater takes the reader backward in time to her own past as a woman with profound emotional pain.

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Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Terry Tempest Williams, a thirty-four year old Mormon woman and naturalist based in Salt Lake City, Utah, considers herself part of "The Clan of One-Breasted Women." Ten women of her family, including Williams, have been treated or have died from breast cancer. Is this just an example of the randomness of nature, or is it related to the fact that Williams and her family were residing in the "virtually uninhabited" plains downwind of the atomic bomb testing grounds from 1951 to 1962?

When her book begins, Williams' mother has just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and the book follows the next five years of her life and death. At the same time, the Great Salt Lake is rising to record heights, flooding the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and scattering the birds and animals with whom Williams has lived her life. The interplay of the uncontrollable elements of nature and the inevitability of life and death make this book an elegant study of "renewal and spiritual grace," and an excellent and unusual telling of a daughter learning how to grieve for her mother.

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Pursuit of Excellence

Yount, Rena

Last Updated: Jan-28-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

It is sometime in the future of genetic engineering, at the point at which, for a high enough price, one can buy physical and intellectual characteristics for one's fetus. This is the story of a young American couple of average means who have one "normal" son and are negotiating a supernorm status for their female fetus. The action centers around the stresses placed on the young family by the financial sacrifices required to engineer a daughter who would be able to compete in the growing population of engineered people. Husband and wife disagree increasingly, and ultimately the family breaks up over the wife's obsession with having a perfectly engineered child.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Two physicians sit in the Emergency Room of a Kansas City hospital on Christmas Day. The narrator's references to the incompetence or past errors of each is slipped quietly into the text as the story unfolds.

The doctors are telling the narrator of their most interesting encounter of this holiday season: a distraught adolescent, in a religious frenzy, had come in requesting castration for his "awful lust." The two docs managed to blunder the encounter so sufficiently that the boy left, only to return a few hours later bleeding dangerously from his penile self-amputation. The self-centered conversation returns to verbal ego-play between the two physicians, without a hint that either has considered the magnitude of the medical malfeasance against the boy.

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Rappaccini's Daughter

Hawthorne, Nathaniel

Last Updated: Jan-28-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Set in Padua "very long ago," this is the story of a "mad scientist" working in isolation on a completely unethical (at least by modern research standards) experiment involving poisonous plants. A young student of medicine observes from his quarters the scientist's beautiful daughter who is confined to the lush and locked gardens in which the experiment is taking place.

Having fallen in love with the lovely Beatrice, Giovanni ignores the warning of his mentor, Professor Baglioni, that Rappaccini is up to no good and he and his work should be shunned. Eventually, Giovanni sneaks into the forbidden garden to meet his lover, and begins to suffer the consequences of encounter with the plants--and with Beatrice, who dwells among them and has been rendered both immune to their effects and poisonous to others.

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The Birthmark

Hawthorne, Nathaniel

Last Updated: Jan-28-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A devoted scientist, in a brief step from his laboratory pursuits, marries a beautiful woman with a single physical flaw: a birthmark on her face. Aylmer becomes obsessed with the imperfection and his need to remove it. The tale evolves around his progressive frenzy to use his scientific skills to render his bride perfect and the faith of his submissive wife that the union can survive only if he accomplishes his goal. The author tells us that Aylmer "had devoted himself, however, too unreservedly to scientific studies . . . " and, in the secrecy of his laboratory he prepares the potion for Georgiana which results in the disappearance of the birthmark and the death of Aylmer's experimental subject.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

An eccentric aging physician, Dr. Heidegger, calls together his old friends and contemporaries to test his waters of the "fountain of youth." As the doctor himself sits by to enjoy the show, each of his four aged friends eagerly quaffs more and more of the magic potion, each draught further carrying them backwards into their shared youth. Having grown young, smooth-skinned and agile again, the three men begin to fight for the favors of the fourth compatriot now restored to her former beauty.

In the heat of the fracas, they begin to grow tired and within minutes the effect of the "waters" has worn off. The participants in the brief respite from old age are devastated by the transience of the experience. Despite Heidegger's warning that he has learned to appreciate the advantage of age by watching the four of them make themselves fools, they learned no such lesson and resolve to make a pilgrimage to Florida to seek the Fountain.

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