Showing 121 - 130 of 210 annotations tagged with the keyword "Nature"

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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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poetry and Art

Summary:

This book represents collaboration between neurologist-poet Jerome Freeman and potter Richard Bresnahan. Thirty-seven black-and-white photographs of ceramic pieces by Bresnahan from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts are interspersed with 56 of Freeman’s short poems. In his introduction Freeman writes, "Richard’s pottery (champions) both our environment and the need to nourish our humanity through cooperation and caring." Likewise, Freeman notes that much of his own poetry "attempts to focus upon caring." As he also points out, "the economy and simplicity of pottery can resemble the spare verbiage and subtlety of successful poetry."

Indeed, Freeman’s poems are simple, direct, and evocative. Many of them, such as "Carrying On" (p. 3), "Ten Year Old with Rheumatoid Arthritis" (p. 17), and "DTs" (p. 49), create images of patients. (However, the 88-year-old arthritis sufferer in "Carrying On" by no means considers himself a patient!) Others evoke more general human responses to severe illness ("Apocalypse," pp. 6-7), or to the threat of illness ("In Defense of the Hypochondriac," p. 15). In the former, Freeman writes of a comatose ICU patient, "All about keep mostly / thinking there’s a mistake / here somewhere." In the latter poem, Freeman concludes, "The worst might / happen. Keep crossing / bridges before you come / to them."

These poems also evoke the landscape and flora and fauna of the Great Plains: "Lake Superior in February" (p. 29), "The Prairie Gentian" (p. 79), and "When Wild Turkeys Come Out of the Woods" (p. 87). But the outside and inside worlds are closely connected. In "Coma Vigil" (p. 59), a poem about a woman in a persistent vegetative state, he begins, "Dawn’s bounty spills over / the rim of sky to spread / across darkened / prairie." Does the woman want to be kept alive in her "coma vigil"? The poem ends, "The time has / come. / Shadows still conceal / easy ways of letting / go."

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Middlesex

Eugenides, Jeffrey

Last Updated: Nov-16-2003
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The narrator of this fictional autobiography is Cal Stephanides, an American of Greek descent with a hereditary 5-alpha-reductase deficiency that gives her the prepubertal anatomy (and thus the social upbringing) of a girl, but at puberty begins her transformation into ambiguity, then maleness, and then, gradually, masculinity.

The novel is a kind of biography, not just of Cal, but also of the mutant gene that causes her/his condition. It is transmitted from a small village in Smyrna, through his grandparents, who were also brother and sister and who married on the ship to America, apparently leaving behind family as well as national identity. Their Greekness and the gene come with them, and the consequences of their incest haunts Cal's grandmother, Desdemona, until the very end of the novel.

The family settles in Detroit, and a third biographical strand is the story of the Greek immigrant community in 20th century America, from Ford's assembly lines to bootlegging during the prohibition, through Detroit race riots and then to affluent suburbia.

Cal's family settles in the suburb of Middlesex, and the focus narrows to the individual. Calliope is raised as a girl, but in adolescence, Callie learns about hermaphroditism, narrowly escapes sex-assignment surgery, becomes a performer in a seventies sex show in San Francisco, and finally returns home to Middlesex, Grosse Point, Michigan, as a male. The story is framed by Cal's much later adult life as a man in Berlin, and his successful romance with a woman he meets there.

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Buying Dad

Aizley, Harlyn

Last Updated: Nov-16-2003
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In this memoir, subtitled "One Woman's Search for the Perfect Sperm Donor," lesbian author and academic Harlyn Aizley confronts her approaching fortieth birthday by deciding to have a child. She and her partner, Faith, begin the process of choosing its biological father. The first major decision: a known or unknown sperm donor? Eventually they choose an unknown one, from a sperm bank with an identity-release program that will allow their child the option of meeting her biological father after she turns eighteen.

Aizley narrates, in absorbing and often very funny detail, the eight months it takes her to conceive, and then the nine months of pregnancy culminating in the birth of a daughter. Sad but telling counterpoints to this narrative are the terrorist attacks in September 2001, which occur during Aizley's pregnancy, and the experience of her mother, who dies three months after the baby's birth, of ovarian cancer.

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The Cottage Hospital

Betjeman, John

Last Updated: Oct-05-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

On a summer afternoon, the poet lies in a garden under a mulberry tree. The air is "swimming with insects" and children are playing in the street. He notices a housefly being caught in a spider’s web. The spider poisons and kills the fly, then wraps it in "lithe elastic," but everything else in the garden remains the same. Life goes on as usual. The poet then turns his attention to the future. One day in some cottage hospital he, too, will approach the end of his life. Will he groan in his bed and gasp for breath, while no one notices? [36 lines]

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Demon in the Freezer

Preston, Richard

Last Updated: May-10-2003
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Investigative Journalism

Summary:

This gripping narrative traces the history of the efforts to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s, the top-level decisions to keep a few vials of it for emergency purposes in American and Soviet freezers, and the reemergence of smallpox not only as a health threat, but as a potential bioweapon of unequaled destructive power. Preston details maverick natural cases that surfaced after worldwide eradication efforts, how it was discovered that undocumented reserves of smallpox were not only being kept, but researched and possibly "weaponized," and how hotly, in the US, teams of scientists and military intelligence personnel debated funding new smallpox research in the US with a view to developing a new vaccine as a defense.

The ethical issues in those debates are unprecedented in the scope of the possible public health threat and the variables that might make traditional vaccination ineffective against the weaponized virus. As in his previous books on biological threats, The Hot Zone and The Cobra Event (see annotation), Preston follows the work and lives of several key scientists and includes scenes from interviews with a variety of persons involved in confronting the political, ethical, and medical dilemmas posed by smallpox research and efforts to track and control it.

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Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The 58 year old plastic surgeon who narrates this story has plenty of problems. He drinks too much and his surgical skills are deteriorating. His wife Maya, a neurosurgeon young enough to be his daughter, has a miscarriage not long after her father dies from a brain tumor. The narrator is plagued by an obsession with butterflies.

He seems to have inherited his unnatural interest in these insects from both his father and grandfather. Strangely, the pursuit of butterflies has brought only tragedy to these men. Maya believes her husband's butterfly collection is a curse so she destroys it. Her action seems insufficient to liberate the narrator from the burden of his ancestors. He is convinced that his destiny was dictated by his family years ago.

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