Showing 141 - 150 of 257 annotations contributed by Duffin, Jacalyn

Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

A three-year old girl with globular cheeks patiently allows her calligrapher father to brush letters on her face and lips, as he recounts the story of creation: "And when God saw it was good, he signed it." Gently, he turns her round to sign at the base of her neck. Several years pass with the ritual repeated, accompanied by a cheery song that had been popular when her parents were first in love.

An aunt gives her a diary (or "pillow book"), and so begins N's obsession with writing. The tender scenes are marred by the brusque visits of her father's publisher (Yoshi Oida), with whom he has a sexual relationship. Through the child's eyes, the father is forced to prostitute his body for his written work.

Grown into a beautiful woman, Nagiko (Vivian Wu) escapes an unhappy marriage with the misogynist office boy from the publishing house by fleeing to Hong Kong. She works as a model and seeks solace (and her absent parent) in a perpetual quest for calligraphers who will become her lovers and write on her body.

She tries unsuccessfully to print her own work with the publisher as a kind of revenge for the power he held over her father. Her lover, the polyglot translator, Jerome (Ewan McGregor), urges her to write on his body for "submission" to the reluctant publisher. Jerome is already yet another of the publisher's lovers. Nagiko agrees and the plan works, but she is overcome with jealousy and spurns Jerome.

Counseled by a disingenuous friend, the unhappy Jerome takes a supposedly temporary poison in order to win her back; her affection is restored, but the poison kills him. The publisher exhumes Jerome's body, for a gruesome harvest of his skin and her words. Disconsolate and enraged, Nagiko submits book after book of her work to the publisher, each chapter written on a different male body, some perfect, some dilapidated, all her lovers.

Finally she sends "Book 13, the Executioner" on the sumo-wrestler-like body of a man who slashes the publisher's throat. Nagiko returns to Japan where she gives birth to Jerome's child and the cheerful song of her childhood returns as she writes on the infant's face.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

In the year 2000, Nafas (Niloufar Pazira) a 29-year old Afghan-born Canadian journalist travels back to her homeland in search of her sister. The sister was maimed by the long war, and her life under oppressive Taliban rule is no longer worth living; she has resolved to commit suicide on the last solar eclipse of the century.

Dependent for her travels on the uncertain help of men, Nafas encounters many other charismatic women hiding under the seclusion of the burqas. The inquiries she makes to find her sister raise the veil just enough to reveal the torment of Afghan women, deprived of rights, education, and basic health care. A doctor must question his women patients, who are hidden from him by a canvas wall, through a child intermediary; he does not touch them. The ending is inconclusive.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A young woman observes the slow decline of her grandmother into dementia and her grandfather’s reaction to the situation. Issues of denial, anger, autonomy, and intimacy rise to the surface—and expose the formerly private dimensions of their marriage. The illness also stresses her own relationship and invites the idea that someday she and her partner could be projected into a future with the same vulnerability.

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Oleanna

Mamet, David

Last Updated: Oct-29-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Act One: The professor, John, receives his student, Carol, who is seeking help with an essay. She readily admits that she does not understand the premise of the course. During the interview, he is animated and cavalier about her difficulty. He is also distracted by preoccupations from home and allows their encounter to be interrupted by phone calls about the sale of his house. Insisting that academic work is not as difficult as some would pretend, he suggests that she simply come to see him from time to time.

Act Two: Carol and John meet again in his office. She has reported to his tenure committee, accusing him of sexism, elitism, grandiosity, and offering good grades in exchange for coming to see him. He is upset and angry because he thinks she has misinterpreted his offer. He had considered himself a good and original teacher. More than insulting, the accusations now mean that he is in financial trouble because he had bought a house on the strength of his bid for tenure. He asks how he can make amends. She interprets the question as attempt to force a retraction. She moves to leave, he moves to restrain her, and she screams.

Act Three: Carol comes to John’s office at his request and against advice. There has been an investigation and he is to be disciplined. He refers to her complaints as “allegations,” but she insists that they are “proven facts.” She has asked that his book be banned, and is considering criminal charges for battery and attempted rape. His career and perhaps also his marriage are ruined. Outraged he starts to beat her—but suddenly stops as if he finally understands her position.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

The young Beatrice Cenci (1577-1599) is kept with her stepmother, Lucretia, in the appalling isolation and darkness of a forbidding castle outside the Papal States by her cruel father, Francesco, whose enormous debts and misdeeds make him unable, as well as unwilling, to support his offspring. He wants to prevent Beatrice from marrying to avoid paying a dowry. She has suitors, among them a “smooth” prelate, but is unhappily resigned to her lot until her father rapes her.

With the support of her brother, Giacomo, she commands two servants--Olimpio and Marzio--to kill her father, but they waver in their resolve. She taunts them and they return to strangle the man, tossing his body below a balcony as if he had fallen. She rewards them with a bag of coins.

Suspicions about the death are raised almost within the moment of its discovery because of the wounds on the body, bloody evidence in the bedchamber, and the apparent lack of grief in the family. Confessions are extracted by torture.

The defense argued sexual abuse of Beatrice as a mitigating circumstance, but failed to convince the court. Beatrice, her stepmother, Lucretia, and Giacomo are to be executed while a younger brother is forced to watch. In the doleful final scene, the family accepts their fate with tenderness and courage.

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A Tale for Midnight

Prokosch, Frederic

Last Updated: Oct-29-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The young and beautiful Beatrice Cenci (1577-1599) is kept with her stepmother, Lucretia, in appalling isolation and darkness in a forbidding castle by her cruel father, Francesco, whose enormous debts and misdeeds make him unable as well as unwilling to support his offspring. He wants to keep Beatrice from marrying to avoid paying a dowry.

He suffers from a horrifying skin disease, possibly syphilis, that covers his lower body in itchy painful sores. He requires Beatrice to rub him nightly with a rough towel, and he is careless to the point of exhibitionism about his sexual and eliminatory functions.

Beatrice decides that he must be killed if her lot is to improve. She begins an affair with Olimpio the married seneschal of the castle—giving herself to obtain his allegiance; soon she is pregnant. She appeals to her brother in Rome for help. He sends poison, but Beatrice cannot use it, because Cenci has her sample all his food and drink.

Angry and impatient with her situation and fearing her father’s wrath when he discovers the affair with an underling, she insists that Olimpio kill Francesco immediately. With the help of the peasant, Marzio, Olimpio smashes the sleeping man’s skull with a hammer and together they stuff his body through a hole in the balcony to make the crime look like an accident.

Suspicions about the death are raised almost within the moment of its discovery because of the wounds on the body, blood in the bedchamber, and the apparent lack of grief in the family. Time passes. Beatrice and Lucretia go back to the family mansion in Rome. Olimpio leaves his own wife to be with Beatrice, and he blackmails the Cenci family into treating him as an equal. Her brother, Giacomo, barely tolerates him.

Beatrice gives birth and the child is handed to the nuns for care. Eventually charges are laid and confessions are extracted by torture on the wheel. Marzio dies in prison of his wounds. Olimpio roams freely but is himself murdered for a ransom.

The lawyer for the defense argued that the father’s sexual abuse of Beatrice was a mitigating circumstance, but he failed to convince the court. Beatrice is beheaded along with her stepmother, while her brother is tortured, drawn and quartered. Because the killig of a parent is the most odious of crimes, the executions are staged as a public spectacle in front of Hadrian’s tomb. Beatrice’s corpse is escorted by a vast crowd to its final resting place near the altar of San Pietro Montorio by Rome’s Gianicolo garden.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

The young pathologist David Coleman (Ben Gazzara) arrives to join a hospital pathology lab. He encounters disorganization and a hostile, cigar-smoking chief, Joe Pearson (Frederic March), who declares his intention to keep working until he dies. Coleman tries to implement a few changes, but his suggestions are overruled.

The film revolves around two cases: possible erythroblastosis in the child of an intern and his wife whose first child died; possible bone cancer in Coleman's girlfriend, student nurse Kathy Hunt (Ina Balin). The infant's problem is misdiagnosed due to Pearson's refusal to order the new Coombs' test recommended by Coleman; the baby nearly dies, alienating the obstetrician (Eddie Albert), a long time friend who now presses for Pearson's dismissal.

Coleman disagrees with Pearson, who thinks that Kathy's bone tumor is malignant, but he opts for professional discretion, defers to the chief, and urges her to have her leg amputated anyway. He discovers that Pearson had been right: the surgery, which he thought unnecessary, has provided her with her only chance of survival. Just as Coleman realizes the enormity of his error, he learns that Pearson has resigned and that he will take over the lab.

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Other Women's Children

Klass, Perri

Last Updated: Sep-05-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Amelia Stern is an academic pediatrician in a large city hospital and mother of a bright, young son. She is deeply involved with her patients, including Darren, born with AIDS, and Sara, the malnourished child of anxious parents, both lawyers. As she struggles to answer to the demands of her work for "other women’s children," she neglects her own child and her marriage begins to fall apart. Her husband’s resentment and her own feelings of guilt come to a crisis when her son falls seriously ill while she is at the hospital.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

In 1996, at the age of 31, David Biro is preparing for his specialty examinations in dermatology and is set to share a practice with his father. But he develops a visual disturbance. After repeated testing, he is found to have the rare blood disorder of paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria. The diagnosis was problematic, but the treatment choices are overwhelming. His youngest sister is a suitable donor, and he opts for a bone marrow transplant. He realizes that his decision was influenced not only by the diagnosis, but also by his personality and his reaction to the physicians.

Advance preparations are hectic and sometimes comic, especially his deposits at a local sperm bank. The pain of the transplant and the six weeks imprisonment in a small hospital room are told in graphic detail. The athletically inclined doctor suffers many complications: exquisitely painful ulcers of the scrotum, mouth, and esophagus; inflammation of the liver; unexplained fever; drug-induced delirium; weakness and weight loss.

His parents, sisters and friends leap into action to provide round-the-clock presence, but his independent wife, Daniella, resents the invasion. While David’s body is wracked with drugs and radiation, his family and his marriage are subjected to destructive forces too. Yet all--body, family, and marriage--emerge intact, though changed, by their experience.

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A Natural History: A Novel

Oatley, Keith

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

After working with the Parisian physiologist, François Magendie, Dr. John Leggate returns to England to practice in the town of Middlethorpe in the late 1840s. He is obsessed with making a research discovery that will help humanity and establish his name. He falls in love with the intelligent and gifted Marian Brooks who aspires to a career as a concert pianist after study in Leipzig with Felix Mendelsohn. They marry and find happiness at first, but she is troubled by discovery of his past affair in France, and he is troubled by her abandoning music simply to be the type of wife he never wanted.

Leggate has a theory about the origins of cholera, but his painstaking work shows him two things: 1. his original idea is mistaken, and 2. the disease is spread by water. He does not publish, though he announces his intentions to do so. Intimidated by skeptical colleagues, he is unable to write, and the problem is exacerbated by a newspapermen who makes unwarranted accusations because he holds a grudge against Leggate’s wife.

Marian wants to help him, but he rejects her offers and retreats into himself. Their marriage is threatened. Just as cholera returns and the town learns from Leggate’s insights, John Snow publishes his famous observations on cholera. Leggate is scooped. He and Marian migrate to Canada where he is accepted for his skills and desire to be of service and she establishes a conservatory of music. Their marriage is restored.

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