Showing 131 - 140 of 375 annotations tagged with the keyword "Religion"

Hanging On

Liveson, Jay

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This collection by a physician-poet covers a wide spectrum in topic and tone. The poems in the first of the four sections speak in voices of those waiting surgical outcomes, those whose loved ones are about to undergo invasive and dangerous procedures, those who are coming to terms (partly clinical terms) with death. The poems in the second section focus more explicitly on Jewish experience, and on experiences of suffering that take place in the wider context of biblical tradition and recent history.

The third section features lighter-hearted poems, many rhymed, that make playful reference to moments in domestic life and relationship which, while not free of suffering and anxiety, are also the stuff of laughter. The fourth focuses on love--erotic, romantic, familial--and death, which includes the ordinary losses that living through time entails. Elegiac, wistful, musing, and poignant, they end the collection in a complex, sustained key that holds an elegant tension between sorrow and hope.

View full annotation

Lethal Dose

Snodgrass, Steven

Last Updated: Dec-12-2006
Annotated by:
Taylor, Nancy

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Jeff Taylor, a young surgeon whose career was cut short by a hand accident, decides, after finishing a residency in anesthesia, to enter the newest residency program offered by Northwest Regional Hospital: a program in euthanasia. The novel features three residents and their superior; a reporter for a tabloid who tapes hospital conversations; Pennington, a wealthy conservative who wants to increase pressure on those performing abortions; and Micah Chaine, an ex-priest hired by Pennington to work behind the scenes setting up demonstrations and setting off bombs.

Chaine, feeding on his own religious beliefs, decides those involved in the euthanasia program must die. When Pennington wants out of their deal, Chaine kidnaps Pennington's wife and one of the euthanasia residents and sets bombs for the others.

View full annotation

Tracks

Erdrich, Louise

Last Updated: Dec-12-2006
Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Set in the 1920s, Tracks is the chronicle of the Anishinabe community in North Dakota and the struggle for land and the continuance of their tradition and beliefs that undergird the heterogeneity of their tribal society in the face of shifting U.S. policies. Told in the counterpointing voices of Nanapush, a tribal elder, and Pauline Puyat, a mixed-blood member of the community, the novel describes the intertwining lives of Fleur Pillager, Nanapush, Pauline, and their families; the horrible losses from epidemics, as well as the powerful love circulating among the community, and their resistance to cultural and political domination.

While these issues occupy much of the story, Pauline’s decline into an excessive and destructive religious asceticism is also a central part of the plot. Pauline’s internalized racism (she "would not speak our language" [p.14]) takes its shape in her hatred of her own body and her fascination with death ("I handled the dead until the cold feel of their skin was a comfort, until I no longer bothered to bathe once I left the cabin but touched others with the same hands, passed death on" [p. 6]). She ends up in a convent inventing new ways to torture herself as she listens to Jesus tell her she is not really Indian.

In contradistinction to Pauline are Nanapush and Fleur, who resist dominance and claim their identities in magnificent ways. In one scene, Nanapush refuses to allow a doctor to treat his granddaughter’s severely frostbitten foot with amputation, knowing that "saving [her] the doctor’s way would kill [her]." Nanapush nurses her himself, saving the foot and telling her stories as a way to walk her through the pain of healing.

View full annotation

The Healing

Jones, Gayl

Last Updated: Dec-12-2006
Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Harlan Jane Eagleton, a faith healer, tells the story of her evolution from being a rock star's manager and beautician into healing. She travels from tank town to tank town ("on account of them water tanks") performing faith healings. The novel begins at the end of the story and loops forward to where her story begins, Harlan Jane's first faith healing.

In the process, readers are given accounts of her life as manager of the rock star, her love affair with a paranoid German lover, and her former husband, a medical anthropologist who travels and studies in Africa. We hear about Harlan Jane also from Nicholas, her assistant, who sometimes narrates what happens at the healings.

View full annotation

The Conjure Man Dies

Fisher, Rudolph

Last Updated: Dec-12-2006
Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The well-known and mysterious "psychist" and former African king, N. Frimbo, is found dead one night in his chair at the conjure table. What appears to be a murder is investigated by Detective Perry Dart of the Harlem police force and Dr. John Archer, his friend. Archer had been the physician summoned by Frimbo’s clients when one of them found he was speaking to a dead man.

The plot becomes more complex when Frimbo’s corpse disappears and returns as Frimbo, living. Declaring that he has control over his mind to such an extent that he can return from the dead, Frimbo nevertheless was attacked by someone for some reason and the detective and doctor proceed to find out who and why.

.

View full annotation

Miracles

Cecil, Richard

Last Updated: Dec-11-2006
Annotated by:
Dittrich, Lisa

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Miracles describes the speaker's Catholic school training and how he moved from an unquestioning faith in the possibility of miracles to disbelief, and the mixed feelings of relief, guilt, and a sense of exile that accompanied this shift.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A stray dog bites the left ankle of 12-year-old Sierva Maria de Todos los Angeles. She and her peculiar parents live in a country near the Caribbean Sea during colonial times. Her father belongs to the class of decaying nobility. He is a weak man with poor judgment. Her scheming mother is a nymphomaniac who abuses cacao tablets and fermented honey. Sierva Maria is more or less raised by the family's slaves whose culture she assimilates. The youngster has luxuriant copper-colored hair and a penchant for lying--"she wouldn't tell the truth even by mistake" according to her mother. (p. 16)

Before long, the dog dies of rabies. When Sierva Maria begins exhibiting bizarre behavior, no one is quite sure of the cause even though everyone seems to have his or her own theory. Is the girl displaying signs of rabies? Is she possessed by a demon? The physician Abrenuncio doubts either diagnosis. The powerful Bishop believes the girl may require an exorcism. Perhaps Sierva Maria is simply eccentric or maybe even crazy. Ninety-three days after being bitten by the dog, she is locked in a cell in the Convent of Santa Clara.

The Bishop appoints his protégé, 36-year-old Father Cayetano Delaura, to investigate the matter. The priest is immediately infatuated with the girl. When the Bishop learns of Cayetano Delaura's love for Sierva Maria and his unacceptable actions, the priest is disciplined and then relegated to caring for lepers at the hospital. The Bishop next takes matters into his own hands by performing the rite of exorcism on Sierva Maria. After five sessions, she is found in bed "dead of love." (p. 147)

View full annotation

The Drowned and the Saved

Levi, Primo

Last Updated: Dec-06-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Primo Levi was imprisoned at the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. He survived the experience, probably in part because he was a trained chemist and as such, useful to the Nazis. Soon after the war ended, he wrote several books about his experience. The Drowned and the Saved, however, was written 40 years later and is the work of memory and reflection not only on the original events, but also on how the world has dealt with the Holocaust in the intervening years. Fundamental to his purpose is the fear that what happened once can happen (and in some respects, has happened) again.

Chapter 1, "The Memory of the Offense," dissects out the vagaries of memory, rejection of responsibility, denial of unacceptable trauma and out and out lying among those who were held to account by tribunals as well as among the victimized. Levi does not spare himself: "This very book is drenched in memory . . . it draws from a suspect source and must be protected against itself" (34). Even so, he insists, memory and the historical record are crucial to combating Nazi assumptions that their deeds would go unnoticed (they were destroying the evidence), or disbelieved.

In "The Gray Zone" (2) Levi challenges the tendency to over-simplify and gloss over unpleasant truths of the inmate hierarchy that inevitably developed in the camps, and that was exacerbated by the Nazi methodology of singling some out for special privileges. He outlines the coercive conditions that cause people to become so demoralized that they will harm each other just to survive. (And when they refused to collaborate, they were killed and immediately replaced.)

Chapter 3, " Shame," is, in my opinion, the most profound and moving section of the book. Levi begins it by discussing a phenomenon that occurred following liberation from the camps: many who had been incarcerated committed suicide or were profoundly depressed. This Levi attributes to shame and feelings of guilt. "Coming out of the darkness, one suffered because of the reacquired consciousness of having been diminished . . . Our moral yardstick had changed [while in the camps]" (75). Beyond that, there is the sense that "each one of us (but this time I say 'us' in a . . . universal sense) has usurped his neighbor's place and lived in his stead" (81-82).

In the concentration camp, says Levi, it was usually "the selfish, the violent, the insensitive, the collaborators of the 'gray zone,' the spies" who survived ["the saved"] while the others did not ["the drowned"] (82). Only the drowned could know the totality of the concentration camp experience, but they cannot testify; hence, the saved must do their best to render it. Since Levi was one of those saved, he is "in permanent search of a justification . . . " and although he feels compelled to bear witness, he does not consider doing so sufficient justification for having survived. In this chapter Levi also discusses why inmates did not commit suicide during their incarceration:" . . . suicide is an act of man and not of the animal . . . because of the constant imminence of death there was no time to concentrate on the idea of death" (76).

"Communicating" (4) deals with the emotional and practical consequences of not being able to understand the German commands of the captors, or the conversation of the mostly German speaking prisoners (Levi was Italian but spoke some German). Levi also describes the additional suffering of those who were cut off from all communication with friends and family. "Useless Violence" (5) gives examples of how the Nazis tormented their prisoners with "stupid and symbolic violence."

In "The Intellectual in Auschwitz" (6) Levi speculates about how and in what circumstances being educated or cultured was a help or hindrance to coping with the situation. In this chapter he considers also whether religious belief was useful or comforting, concluding that believers "better resisted the seduction of power [resisted collaborating]" (145) and were less prone to despair. Levi, however, was never a believer, although he admits to having almost prayed for help once, but caught himself because "one does not change the rules of the game at the end of the match, not when you were losing" (146).

Chapter 7, "Stereotypes," addresses those who question why many concentration camp inmates or ghetto inhabitants did not attempt to escape or rebel, and why many German Jews remained in Germany during Hitler's ascendance. As in all the other chapters of his book, Levi discusses the complexity of these situations. "Letters from Germans" summarizes his correspondence with Germans who read his earlier books. The book ends ("Conclusion") with the exhortation that "It happened, therefore it can happen again . . . " (199).

View full annotation

Black Boy

Wright, Richard

Last Updated: Dec-06-2006
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This is American writer Richard Wright's story of his life as a black child in the American South (Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas) in the early decades of the 20th century. Black Boy opens with the disaster in which Richard at the age of four accidentally burns down his grandparents' house and is beaten nearly to death by his mother as punishment. The book ends with Richard's hopeful escape north to Chicago at the age of eighteen.

In between are years of heart-stopping survival stories, as Richard, an intelligent and willful child who tries to resist many of the demands of his strongly segregated environment, runs head-on into the hatred of racists and the deep poverty, hunger, and oppression that so often were the lot of the system's victims. (On the subject of hunger, one of the book's working titles was American Hunger, and Wright was chronically hungry all these years. He gets so used to extreme hunger that at one point late in the book after a short interlude with regular meals he is surprised to discover that he can suddenly read faster!)

Black Boy, originally published by Harper & Bros. in 1945, is only the first half of Wright's original manuscript. After production had begun on the complete manuscript, Wright accepted an offer from the Book-of -the-Month Club to make his book one of their selections if only the first half were published. The second half was first published in its entirety by Harper & Row as American Hunger in 1977. The 1993 edition titled Black Boy (American Hunger) brings both halves together for the first time. The second volume describes Wright's experiences in Chicago from 1926 to 1936, including his frustrating attempt to work with the Communist Party as a way of supporting unemployed workers during the Great Depression.

View full annotation

The Shrine at Altimara

L'Heureux, John

Last Updated: Dec-05-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Written in a style resembling religious litany, this is the tale of a disastrous teen-age marriage and its criminal consequences. The setting is California. Maria is a poor Mexican-American who meets and attracts Russell, a working class Anglo. Although ambivalent, Maria sees marriage to Russell as the path to American, white respectability. Her earlier hopes of achieving this status through her own efforts have been frustrated by the reality of poor academic performance. She is eager to get away from the household of her deeply religious mother. Russell is brooding, taciturn, and carries the physical and psychic wounds of an abused childhood--his father is a partially reformed alcoholic who deliberately burned Russell's hand.

The pair are ill-equipped for marriage or parenthood and Maria soon feels trapped. Their son, John, avoids provoking them by being a "good boy," hoping to prevent their frequent arguments. Russell's deprived childhood accounts, perhaps, for his obsessively jealous fixation on Maria. He is jealous even of the attention she gives their son.

The catastrophe that seems always close at hand finally occurs: Russell sets fire to his own child. The second part of the novel is told primarily from John's perspective as he undergoes a prolonged, painful rehabilitation and tries to find meaning in these events. It is also the story of the plastic surgeon who attempts to restore John's horribly scarred body and who has come to doubt the purpose of his profession (there is nothing he can do about destructive family relationships and psychic scars). Russell, who has been brutalized in jail, is released, seeking redemption. Fire, significant throughout the story, plays a final shocking (redemptive?) role.

View full annotation