Showing 121 - 130 of 251 annotations contributed by Duffin, Jacalyn

The Forbidden Woman

Mokeddem, Malika

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Sultana, a doctor who escaped her illiterate nomadic background to study and work in France, returns to her native Algeria when she hears of the death of her former lover and fellow physician, Yacine. She is treated with hostility, but defiantly stays in Yacine’s place at the clinic. Vincent, a Frenchman who is the baffled recipient of a perfectly matched kidney from a young Algerian woman, travels to the desert to explore the culture of this unknown person whose death has brought him back to life.

Sultana and Vincent meet through their common friendship with the furtive, questioning children, Dalila and Alilou. Vincent and Salah, Yasmine’s best friend, both fall in love with Sultana, but she seems indifferent to them. The violence and suspicion of the town leaders causes her to regress into anorexia and mutism, during which she is tormented by the horrible memory of the loss of her parents. Her three male friends and the village women help her to recover a sense of self worth, but she must flee when the leaders set fire to their dwellings. A glimmer of optimism can be found in the aspirations of the children and the solidarity of the women.

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Reading Lolita in Tehran

Nafisi, Azar

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

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The author reminisces about her experiences teaching English literature in Iran before, during, and after the revolution and the Iran-Iraq war. Chronology is not important and the book opens near the end of her sojourn in Tehran. A small group of young women who met when they were University students gather in her home to read and discuss English literature. They wear western clothes, remove their veils, and eat sweets. Some have been in prison. They conceal their simple purpose from fathers, husbands, brothers, because their gathering to read Western fiction would be construed as an act of defiance.

In four sections, two named for twentieth-century novels and two for nineteenth-century authors--"Lolita," "Gatsby," "James," and "Austen"--Nafisi constructs a series of flashbacks that describe the events of late 1970s to the 1990s in the inner and outer world of an academic woman. The books and writers used in the section headings have walk-on parts or starring roles that jar in this ostensibly alien context. Yet, they work surprisingly well for the women students, stimulating them to think in new ways about the situation in which they find themselves. Conversely, as the students assimilate the English and American writers into their world, we learn more about their Iran.

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Oryx and Crake: A Novel

Atwood, Margaret

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Please note that in order to properly annotate this novel, the novel's surprise ending will be revealed here. Snowman--who used to be called, Jimmy--is a rare survivor of a dreadful catastrophe that seems to have been both the product and the demise of modern science. He lives in a tree, clad in rags, hiding from relentless heat and hoarding his precarious cache of food and alcohol, while he tries to obliterate consciousness and avoid contact with a peculiar race of beings, the Crakers. Through a series of reminiscences as he makes his way back to where he once worked, Snowman's past slowly advances to meet his future.

The world heated up to be uninhabitable desert and genetic engineering created more problems (and species! [pigoons, rakunks, wolvogs]) than solutions. People became increasingly reliant on artificial environments--both internal and external--while their purveyors--drug and technology firms--held ever greater but unthinking power. The world was divided into two: the rich, safe controlled spaces and the dangerous chaotic realm of the poor. Then an epidemic wiped out most of the human race.

Two friends are central to the story: brilliant but inscrutable Crake whose nerdy gift for science had a role in engineering the 'pure' Crakers and the horrifying world that they occupy; and beautiful, seductive Oryx whose regard of knowing innocence heaps scorn upon messy human desire and emotion. They are the Yin and Yang of the "constructed" world. Only at the end, the reader learns that Oryx was murdered by Crake, who was slain by Snowman. It seems that his arduous journey was simply to destroy the history of the events that he had written and left behind.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

A collection of short stories loosely connected to each other by centering on the experiences of four people from their first encounters during medical school and continuing into young middle age.

The first and third stories “Getting into Medical School, Part I” and “Part II,” are about study partners, Fitzgerald and Ming, who have trouble admitting their love for each other until she is accepted to medical school and he is not. Ming teaches Fitzgerald how to prepare successfully by passing along learning tips her physician-cousin provided her in exchange for sex. In the second story, Ming meets fellow students Sri and Chen and drifts away from Fitzgerald. In the third, he wrestles with feelings of rejection and misery as he realizes she has opted for a relationship with the more culturally “appropriate” Chen; however, her study tips pay off in more than one way when he meets Ming’s unsavory cousin at his medical school interview.

Later stories describe clinical encounters with specific cases, one of the most memorable being “Winston,” about Sri’s relationship with a paranoid person; the tale is told alternatively from the doctor’s perspective and the patient’s. in “Afterwards,” Sri must explain to a man’s wife and son, how he died suddenly at a strange hairstylist salon; the news disturbs the family who discover that the supposedly impotent diabetic had been a regular at a sex shop.

Fitzgerald and Chen become emergency physicians. Less settled, Fitzgerald tries several settings, including working for an air ambulance company. His problem with alcohol emerges from deep disaffection and brooding resentment over Ming’s callous rejection years earlier and her subsequent marriage to Chen. The problem begins to threaten his judgement and seriously compromises his health when he falls ill.

In the ironically titled “Contact Tracing” both Fitzgerald and Chen contract SARS (the latter from the former) during the (real) 2003 Toronto epidemic. They are isolated in adjoining rooms separated by glass and phone each other for support and discussion. They reminisce about Sri who has died of cancer and muse on the relevance of do-not-resuscitate orders. The outcome is both humorous and surprising.

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Summary:

A saxophone-playing, divorced psychiatrist, Dr. Denis, is baffled by the unexplained arrival of a new patient in his mental hospital. The highly intelligent newcomer, called Rantes, has extraordinary gifts and spends long hours in the yard facing southeast, where he claims to receive communications from his home planet. He is visited by the saintly Beatriz, who works in a church, and Denis asks her questions about Rantes.

The bond between the three people begins to transgress the ordinary boundaries between doctor and patient, and culminates in an excursion to a concert in the park. Charmed by Beethoven's "Song of Joy," Rantes instigates generalized waltzing and takes over from an inexplicably obliging conductor. Back in the asylum, the other patients feel the vibrations emanating from Rantes' concert and engage in a good-humored romp. The doctor is reprimanded for the embarrassing situation, and begins to doubt the integrity of the psychiatric enterprise. A weakened Rantes dies after electroshock therapy and the film ends in ambiguity.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Canadian surgeon Norman Bethune, 1890-1939, (Donald Sutherland) journeys 1500 miles into China to reach Mao Zedong's eighth route army in the Wu Tai mountains where he will build hospitals, provide care, and train medics. Flashbacks narrate the earlier events of his life: a bout with tuberculosis at the Trudeau sanatorium; the self-administration of an experimental pneumothorax; the invention of operative instruments; his fascination with socialism; a journey into medical Russia; and the founding of a mobile plasma transfusion unit in war-torn Spain.

Bethune twice married and twice divorced his wife, Frances (Helen Mirren) who chooses abortion over child-rearing in her unstable marriage. By 1939, Bethune had been dismissed from his Montreal Hospital for taking unconventional risks and from his volunteer position in Spain for his chronic problems of drinking and womanizing. As his friend states: "China was all that was left." Even there, Bethune confidently ignores the advice of Chinese officials, until heavy casualties make him realize his mistake and lead him to a spectacular apology. The film ends with his much-lamented death from an infected scalpel wound.

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Common Threads

Epstein, Robert; Friedman, Jeffrey

Last Updated: Feb-14-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This documentary film is narrated by Dustin Hoffman; all other characters play themselves. Five stories (pathographies) introduced as panels from the 14-acre AIDS quilt are interwoven with each other, together with personal photos, newsreels and radio reports to recount the history of the first decade of AIDS in the United States.

Tom was a highly educated and athletic, gay man whose story is told by his lesbian friend and co-parent of his adored little daughter. Rob was a married Afro-American, I.V.-drug-user whose loving wife recounts his battle with drugs as well as his disease and who views her own HIV seropositivity as "God’s will." Jeff’s story is told by his grieving male lover over images of his once golden health.

The parents of twelve-year-old hemophiliac, David, tell the story of his entire life as a rush to consume, from his babyhood forward until the sadness of his last Christmas. The shy, handsome architect, David, is mourned by his bisexual lover, a naval officer at the Pentagon, who now lies dying with the lesions of Kaposi’s sarcoma quite visible on his face.

The narrators describe solace they derived from quilting memorial panels for their loved ones. In the final scene, the AIDS quilt lies on the Mall in Washington as names of hundreds of loved ones are read by grieving families and friends.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Harry (Daniel Auteuil) is a successful sales consultant for a large bank, but his marriage is over. After he forgets to pick up his little daughters at the railway station, his wife (Miou-Miou) quite understandably bars him from further contact. Angry, depressed, and driving alone on a wet night, he literally "runs into" Georges (Pascal Duquenne), an adult with trisomy-21.

Georges has escaped the institution where he was placed by his sister at the death of his beloved mother four years ago. Reduced to ineffectiveness and irrational behavior, Harry is simply unable to rid himself of Georges, allows him to take over his life, and accepts him as a friend on equal terms.

Georges draws Harry into an escapade with his fellow inmates that ends in a late-night frolic at a beach carnival and a spectacular display of fireworks for Harry's children that lures the family back. Georges is in love with Nathalie, a fellow inmate also with trisomy-21, and they share wonderful, neatly ironic daydreams of leading roles in a Mongol horde.

But Georges knows that they can never find happiness together. He eats a box of chocolates, to which he is greatly allergic, and calmly steps off the roof of Harry's skyscraper bank. Thanks to Georges, Harry's life is not only restored, it is vastly improved.

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Summary:

The first seven episodes in the made-for-TV series tracing the remarkably credible story of a woman physician in 1890s London. Newly graduated in medicine, Eleanor Bramwell (Jemma Redgrave) is the daughter of Robert (David Calder), a distinguished physician. He would like her to join him in his private practice, but she has other plans. Bright and ambitious, she is well qualified to pursue her goal of surgery; however, these qualities do not protect her from the chauvinism of her male superiors, including the influential and basically well-meaning Sir Herbert Hamilton (Robert Hardy). In anger and frustration, she leaves the academic hospital, garners philanthropic support from Lady Cora Peters (Michele Dotrice Dotrice) and opens the charitable "Thrift Infirmary,"

In a poverty stricken district. There she is joined by the quiet Scots surgeon Dr. Joe Marsham (Kevin McMonagle) and competent Nurse Carr (Ruth Sheen) of crusty exterior and soft core. Together they encounter a series of clinical problems that clearly document not only the medicine and social values of the late Victorian era, but the troubles of those who live and work in poverty.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Living in Bombay, India, Sera (Souad Faress) and Sam (Khodas Wadia), a beautiful Parsee couple who adore dancing, have a son (Firdaus Kanga) who will never grow and never walk because he has osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease). They name him Brit, for his bones. As narrator, Brit says that Sera suffers from the "Parsee disease of anglophilia." But she accepts Brit’s disability.

His father, however, does not; and he continuously appeals to magic, folklore, and religious healers, hoping to find a cure. He professes love for his son, but is never able to forge a confident bond. Brit does not fail to criticize. Sam’s quest leads to a woman scholar who nurtures the boy’s intelligence and encourages him to write a diary and short stories.

Brit’s older sister is his staunchest ally and best friend, but she eventually must leave for a marriage in America. Sam escorts his daughter to America, where he commits suicide on Fifth Avenue. Brit and his mother come to rely heavily on a widow friend and her deaf daughter, "promised" to Brit in childhood.

But the girl is soon spirited away on a wave of romanticism into a life of prostitution. They take a boarder, Cyrus, a gifted and handsome law student who offers Brit a new world of night life, action, dancing, and physical affection; his love leads Brit to like and accept his own body. When his mother dies, Brit becomes a writer and finds a new life and a new lover.

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