Showing 131 - 140 of 143 annotations contributed by Miksanek, Tony
Some interesting and very odd characters (including a few scientists and researchers) inhabit the eleven short stories in this collection. In "Concerning Mold Upon the Skin, Etc.," Anton van Leeuwenhoek creates his first microscope and becomes so absorbed by the invisible worlds revealed to him that he neglects his own family. "Nowhere" is the tale of an old anatomy professor who aspires to spice up the curriculum by obtaining a corpse for his students to study. "Tumbling" recounts the difficult life of a young woman understandably haunted by the possibility that she may inherit Huntington’s chorea from her father and her inspired liberation of over one thousand laboratory mice.
In "Chloroform Jags," a professional midwife self-experiments with chloroform "not to escape time but to dissolve time." Other stories describe the execution of an elephant; the murder of a physician who happens to be an important figure in the French Revolution; a woman with a talent for insomnia who has not slept for six months; a psychoanalyst and his patient; an eighteenth century blind beekeeper; and Dorothea Dix, an early advocate for the humane treatment of the mentally ill.
Summary:In the title story of this collection, "Survival Rates," a husband's thyroid cancer appears to be a greater threat to his marriage than it does to his health. The young girl who survives an accident in "Jumping" ends up a casualty anyway. In "Howard Johnson's House," a plastic surgeon repairs a nine year old girl's nose after it is severely damaged by a dog bite. Even before the injury, however, the child's nose was hideous. When the surgeon gives her a cosmetically perfect nose, the girl's mother is not merely disappointed but outraged. Two girls must adapt to life after colon surgery in "Krista Had a Treble Clef Rose."
The title story, "In the Gloaming," recounts a mother's final weeks with her 33 year old son who is dying from AIDS. Janet realizes that "the enemy was part of Laird, and neither he nor she nor any of the doctors or experts or ministers could separate the two." (p. 29) He dies at home with his mother next to him.
"Home" depicts the struggle of an elderly woman in the early stages of Alzheimer's dementia who is being coerced by her family to live in a nursing home. She immediately understands that living there would essentially kill her.
In "Watch the Animals," Diana Frick is a wealthy animal lover who has no interest in human relationships. After being diagnosed with lung cancer, she refuses conventional treatment and continues to smoke cigarettes. Surrounded by her pets, she commits suicide by drug overdose but not before she has arranged new homes for all her animals.
In 1929, a Danish physician identifies a new strain of smallpox that is capable of infecting and killing even those individuals who have previously been vaccinated against the disease. Before this incurable plague reaches them, the citizens of Vaden, a prosperous town renowned for their fanatical love of children, unanimously agree to barricade the city from the rest of the world.
Only once during this time when Vaden has quarantined all of Denmark does the town make an exception. A traveling European circus is allowed into the city because the mayor cannot bring himself to refuse its sick children. Unbeknownst to the villagers, a dwarf clown who is the featured performer of the circus has just died from the virulent strain of smallpox, but not before introducing it to Vaden. A 12 year old member of the circus successfully impersonates the dead clown. One night, the imposter with his wooden flute leads the children out of Vaden through a gate in the wall.
Despite years of trying, Cara Glanzman and her husband, Richard Case, both thirty-four years old, are unable to have a child. In fact she is contemplating getting a divorce, and he has decided that he really doesn't want any children. Everything changes when Cara is raped and becomes pregnant by Derrick James Cooper, also known as the "Reservoir Rapist." Although Cara initially considers having an abortion, she decides to have the baby.
As the pregnancy progresses, Cara discovers herself even as her husband becomes lost and despondent. The couple is greatly aided by a delightful midwife named Dorothy Pendleton. When Cara's large, hairy son is born, Richard is present to assist Dorothy with the delivery. "Wolfman Junior," the son of a monster, seems to be accepted by both his mother and surrogate father.
Alois Burda loves money. He is a wealthy owner of a car dealership who has many acquaintances but no true friends. He has been married twice and has three children but is uninterested in his family. Prior to his sixtieth birthday, he experiences weight loss, abdominal pain, and night sweats. Burda is diagnosed with inoperable metastatic cancer of the pancreas.
He seems worried most about what to do with his property and money. Before entering the hospital, he hides his money in some old slippers until he can decide what to do with it. He is comforted by a young nurse, Vera, whose voice reminds him of his mother's. After he dies, Burda's wife discards her husband's belongings into a heap of rubbish, unaware of the fortune hidden in his slippers.
Bruno Kamenar is a pale and thin ten year old boy who lives with his stepmother and younger brother in Croatia in 1948. His father, Pero, has just returned home after serving in the Yugoslav Federal Army. With the constant threat of a Soviet invasion serving as a backdrop, Bruno is plagued by frequent nightmares as well as a cough. He finds solace both in drawing and in the company of the family cow.
Sadly, Bruno contracts tuberculosis from the cow's fresh milk. At first he is unable to be treated because the government rejects an offer of free streptomycin from the Swiss. It is only after Pero publicly criticizes his country's refusal of medical aid and becomes a political prisoner that UNICEF physicians arrive at Bruno's home and treat him with streptomycin and PAS.
He recovers and his father is released from prison. As he watches the family cow and its pen incinerated, Bruno is filled with horror and relief by the death of an animal that once provided food and comfort but almost killed him.
Consider the possibility of a man whose sense of hearing is so enhanced that he can discern the noise of the entire world and also mimic all the sounds made by men and beasts. Imagine a human being who can SEE sounds as well as hear them. It is little wonder that he would have an affinity and talent for music.
Johannes Elias Alder is such a musical genius born in 1803 with a preternatural gift of hearing. The illegitimate son of the village curate, Elias experiences a physical metamorphosis as a child and by the age of ten is already a man. He effortlessly composes magnificent music that he plays on the organ.
Although Elias falls in love with his cousin, Elsbeth, she marries another man. After this loss, he becomes tired of life. Elias commits suicide at the age of 22 by refusing to sleep and succumbing to starvation and an overdose of belladonna.
Margo Billis and her son, Matthew, barely endure a strained and rather twisted relationship. She is a 73 year old woman dying from cancer. Despite her illness, she continues to provide for her lazy, 40 year old son who still lives at home.
Matthew's condition might also be described as terminal in an emotional and psychological sense. He claims to suffer from endogenous depression and wastes most of his life sleeping for long periods of time in his garish green bedroom. His mother implores him to get a job but all he seems capable of is wallowing in self-pity.
Matthew has neither empathy nor sympathy for his mother's misery. One day he finds his mother dead in her bed. Her safe is open and contains $14,000, some undeposited but endorsed checks, a bottle of 200 morphine tablets along with a prescription for morphine, half a carton of cigarettes, and Hummel figurines. Matthew transports her corpse to the freezer in the garage where she will remain until he is ready to announce her death. Realizing he can co-sign her checks and forge her signature, he has finally found a job to his liking.
An American physician's life is irrevocably bisected by World War I. Before volunteering for medical duty in the war, Dr. William Lloyd's existence was structured, safe, and even obedient. After his experience supervising a hospital in France, his life becomes uninhibited, tumultuous, and eventually dangerous.
After the war ends and he returns home, Dr. Lloyd soon divorces his wife and leaves his family. He returns to Europe with the sole purpose of being reunited with Jeanne Prie, a bewitching and extraordinary nurse he worked with in France. She is also a dedicated microbiologist and possesses some of the characteristics of Joan of Arc. Dr. Lloyd has become infatuated with her. Ironically, he dies a victim of scientific research after inoculating himself with an experimental serum that he hoped might be a successful vaccine.