Showing 131 - 140 of 228 annotations tagged with the keyword "Humor and Illness/Disability"

The Doctor's Visit

Steen, Jan

Last Updated: May-09-2005
Annotated by:
Clark, Stephanie Brown

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on panel

Summary:

In 17th Century Dutch depictions of "scenes from everyday life," the so-called genre paintings, the single most popular medical representation is the "Doctor's Visit." Among the most comical and complex are those of Jan Steen, who painted at least 18 works with this theme. Typically the patient is a young female, often suffering from a variety of illnesses related to love, either "love sickness," erotic melancholy, or pregnancy. [See relevant paintings by Steen at the Web Gallery of Art: "The Doctor and His Patient," "Doctor's Visit," and "Love Sickness," at http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/welcome.html. Select "S" from Artist Index, scroll down for Steen, select "Page 1".)

In this painting, the doctor looks with concern at his patient, a young girl, dressed in silk and leaning on a table, as he takes her pulse. Behind her stands a smirking young man who holds a holds a herring in one hand and two small onions in the other. At her feet is an opened letter, alongside a bowl with a piece of burnt ribbon, and a heating box filled with coals, known as a brazier. Behind the physician, a woman playing a harpsichord smiles at the young girl. Behind her, a maidservant beckons a tall, dark, and handsome young man in a red cloak to enter the room.

View full annotation

Buenos Noches, Buenos Aires

Adair, Gilbert

Last Updated: May-09-2005
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

Gilbert Adair has a flair for French settings in the latter half of the twentieth century (The Holy Innocents, Key of the Tower) and this novella is no exception. Gideon, the narrator, has moved to Paris in the early 1980's in order to teach English at the Berlitz school. Although he detests 'dreary' London and has only a distant relationship with his parents ["The only thing we had in common was our kinship. Did we even have that?" (2)], the reason he gives for his move is obliquely described in a lengthy discussion of his unhappy, unfulfilling, often humiliating sex life.

Once in Paris and at work, he befriends a group of fellow teachers at the school. After languid hours gossiping in the staff room and teaching their students, they make variably energetic attempts to live interestingly bohemian and erotic Parisian lives, before and during the first intimations of AIDS. The narrator then describes how AIDS affects his friends and his own life.

View full annotation

The Pleasure of My Company

Martin, Steve

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

This novella is narrated by Daniel Pecan Cambridge, a man who previously worked in numerical codes at a large computer company before essentially becoming a recluse in his own apartment due to his increasingly debilitating rituals, routines, and anxieties. His more incapacitating obsessions and compulsions include the maintenance of 1125 wattage of lights shining in his apartment at any one time and the inability to cross over curbs. This latter obsession requires of him that he crosses the street at "dugout" car driveways and that even regular trips to the Rite-Aid drugstore for medications and groceries result in "figure-8" routes.

He is clearly socially inept, with helpless fantasies about his pharmacist, Zandy, and the real-estate agent, Elizabeth, who is trying to lease the apartments across the street. Nevertheless, his upstairs neighbors, Phillipa and Brian, become his friends almost against his will, and his weekly visits with a training "shrink," Clarrisa, turn into a less professional and more personal relationship. It is this latter relationship with Clarissa and her son Teddy that develops into a moving portrait of friendship and longing.

View full annotation

Black as Egypt's Night

Bulgakov, Mikhail

Last Updated: Jan-26-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The physician-narrator celebrates his 24th birthday in the company of two midwives and a feldsher (physician’s assistant). They toil in a remote area of Russia where conditions are harsh. The doctor tells the group about a peasant woman who requested a refill of belladonna (an atropine-like drug) that was prescribed for stomach pain the day before. Although the instructions were to take five drops as needed, the bottle was completely empty already. Since the woman had no signs of belladonna poisoning, the feldsher concludes she shared it or maybe even sold it to other villagers.

The group shares other stories about patient mistakes and misguided beliefs. That same night a man comes to the doctor’s house. He is a miller suffering from recurrent fevers. The physician diagnoses malaria and remarks how sensible and literate the patient is. Powdered quinine is prescribed to be taken once a day before the onset of fever. Soon the doctor receives word the miller is dying. The patient has defied the instructions and taken all 10 doses of quinine at one time to expedite his recovery. His stomach is pumped, and he survives the overdose.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poetry and Art

Summary:

In the Foreword to this collection, poet John Graham-Pole writes, "Children have uncovered for me the last and greatest lesson: souls thriving on failing at bigger and bigger things" (xvii). The heroes of these poems are just such children, transformed by serious illness. For example, Dominic in "Waiting" who "rests on his airbubble cot / awaiting life’s flight from its earthly beat" (10); Ruby in "Ruby Red": "And so poor Ruby meets her final test, in gentle hemolysis rolled to res" (35); the lovely young woman in "Elegy": "You’re newly dead, sans wig, / seventeen year old virgin whom / I’d loved." (57).

"I try through writing poems to lay a finger on the purpose of illness, on its pulse .  . Poems turn denial and withdrawal into compassion--feeling with. They turn fear into mercy--thank you" (xvii). The poet’s eye remains dispassionate, even though his heart may be breaking, as in "Last Rites" (32), in which a dead toddler’s father and his companion "sluice down the flooring with their hoses. After the vomit and blood the water runs clear." He understands the limits of communication about loss, but recognizes, too, that we must make the attempt; and the attempt has meaning in itself: "Afterward the circles of our talk / snap . . . - Within, we write our / separate texts of it. Between, the tension / stands: this no talk could break." ("Circles," p. 87)

View full annotation

Cannery Row

Steinbeck, John

Last Updated: Jan-25-2005
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This novel takes place in the eponymous Cannery Row, a place made up of 'junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses' (1). Although there is a narrative trajectory--the desire of Mack and the other boys living at the Palace Flophouse to throw a party for their friend and benefactor, Doc--the plot of this novel is really that plot of land Steinbeck describes so well.

View full annotation

My Doctor

Bukowski, Charles

Last Updated: Nov-12-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In this narrative poem, the narrator enters his doctor's waiting room only to find that the room is full of "mostly old / dying women," and the doctor is not in. So the narrator decides to go to the racetrack, where he finds the doctor "standing there with / a hot dog and a beer."

The doctor explains that his practice is depressing; for example, "there's one / old woman, she's got / cancer of the ass." The doctor gives his patient a good tip on the next race. The narrator reveals that he, too, has cancer of the ass. The doctor gets them both another hot dog and beer and starts "talking / about what / a horrible woman / his wife was." [103 lines]

View full annotation

Why I Live at the P.O.

Welty, Eudora

Last Updated: Nov-12-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This story is told by Sister, whose grandfather, Papa-Daddy, has gotten her a job as postmistress of the smallest post office in Mississippi. Sister is living peaceably with Papa-Daddy, her Uncle Rondo, and her Mama, when her younger sister, Stella-Rondo, returns home from an apparently failed marriage with a two-year-old daughter, Shirley T. Stella-Rondo had eloped with Mr. Whitaker, a traveling photographer, now nowhere to be seen.

No sooner does she move in then Stella-Rondo is back to her old tricks as the family favorite. When Sister questions the paternity of Shirley T (even noting how much she looks like Papa-Daddy), Stella-Rondo steadfastly maintains that the child is adopted. She punishes Sister by telling Papa-Daddy that Sister said he should trim his beard, which has been growing untouched by human scissors since it first appeared.

Later, Sister tries to fight back by saying that Shirley T is mute and mentally challenged, but (lo and behold!) she isn't. No matter how tall Stella-Rondo's tales are, the family believes her, and Sister remains the family scapegoat. Finally, to protest her dispossession, Sister rebels by moving away from home--to the local post office.

View full annotation

Grace and Grit

Wilber, Ken

Last Updated: Oct-22-2004
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In the fall of 1983, Treya Killam was about to be married to Ken Wilber, a prominent theorist in the field of transpersonal psychology, when she was diagnosed with a particularly virulent form of breast cancer. This is Ken Wilber's story, with much of it told through his wife Treya's journals and letters, of their five-year battle against her cancer, a long roller-coaster ride that ended in her death by euthanasia in 1988. The narrative includes details of several conventional and unconventional cancer therapies.

View full annotation

Zimmerman's Tefillin

Pies, Ronald

Last Updated: Oct-19-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This is a collection of humane and humorous stories by psychiatrist Ronald Pies. Many of them portray snippets of Jewish-American family life; others feature Pies's alter egos, young psychiatrists named Applebaum; or Ackerman, or Alterman; still others introduce a number of wonderful geriatric characters the reader is unlikely to forget.

In the title story, an elderly man lies in the hospital and remembers how he inserted snippets of pornography into his business partner's tefillin nearly 40 years earlier, just to spite his holier-than-thou partner, who had evicted his Playboy magazines from the premises. "Mandelbaum's Passion" is the story of an elderly professor whose daughter wants to put him into a nursing home. He, on the other hand, focuses his energy on anticipating the twice-weekly visits of Luz, his 26-year-old Hispanic visiting nurse.

Dr. Otto Hertzmann in "Show Us Where God Is" is a retired analytic psychiatrist who lives with his sister. When a young admirer comes to visit, the sister introduces him to Davie, Hertzmann's severely retarded son who, when asked to "show us where God is," grins widely and points to the ceiling. Max Dershman, found dead in his room "stinking of cheap cigars and surrounded by Playboy centerfolds," is another such character. He falls head over heels in love with Riva Greenberg, the nursing home social worker, and leaves her a love letter when he dies ("A Medical Diptych"). In "Sophie Fein Goldberg Stein" the title character insists on always being addressed by her full name--at least, that is, until the nursing home psychiatrist is willing to sit down and listen to the full story of her life.

View full annotation