Showing 141 - 150 of 606 annotations contributed by Coulehan, Jack

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Levertov structures this poem in many ways like a Biblical psalm: repetition, irregular rhythms, direct address. The poem is also reminiscent of a Catholic litany in which saints are invoked in repetitive phrases. It moves forward by piling particularity upon particularity. The movement of the first part of the poem corresponds to the process of aging, preparing to die, letting go of the world, a natural flow or rhythm. However, this natural process is aborted: "She did not die."

The second part of the poem invokes the unnatural state in which she "lies half-speechless, incontinent, / aching in body, wandering in mind . . ." and describes the tubes and sores. "She is not whole." While the psalmist praises "O Lord of mysteries" for the beauty of sudden death, she cries "how baffling, how clueless / is laggard death . . . ." Death "that steals / insignificant patches of flesh" is a mystery.

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Doctor Faustus

Marlowe, Christopher

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Faustus was born into lowly circumstances. He studies hard and masters all the knowledges known to man, but he is still dissatisfied. Faustus determines to study magic, the one knowledge that can break the limits of all others. He engages two master magicians to teach him. While he awaits their arrival, a good and an evil angel appear. The good angel urges him not to go through with his plans, but Faustus is determined. He learns quickly and for his first act calls up Mephistophilis, Satan’s messenger. Faustus is very pleased, thinking he has control over the forces of evil, but Mephistophilis says he only showed up because Faustus had rejected God. Faustus offers to give his soul to Lucifer if Mephistophilis will wait on him for twenty-four years. Lucifer agrees.

Faustus is not troubled by this pact because he does not believe in eternal life. With Mephistophilis’ help, Faustus makes a great career for himself. He amazes the Pope by becoming invisible and stealing things from his hands. He calls forth the spirit of Alexander the Great for the Emperor. As his twenty-four years draw to a close, he begins to fear Satan and nearly repents. Instead, he asks Mephistophilis to bring him Helen of Troy to be his lover in his final moments. Just before his end, he reveals to his fellow scholars how he gained his powers. He is then carried off by a group of devils.

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Erewhon

Butler, Samuel

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Higgs, a sheep farmer, and Chowbok, an old man, decide one day to visit the forbidden country that lies beyond the mountains. When they find a pass through the mountains, Chowbok gets frightened and runs home, so Higgs goes on alone. After a dangerous journey, he wakes one morning surrounded by beautiful shepherdesses. They take his belongings, give him a medical exam, and throw him in jail.

There he learns that he has come to Erewhon (an anagram for nowhere). In this country, illness is considered a crime. Sick people are thrown in jail; sickness is their own fault. Even sad people are imprisoned, for grief is a sign of misfortune and people are held responsible for actions that made them unfortunate. People who rob or murder, on the other hand, are treated kindly and taken to the hospital to recover. No machines are allowed in Erewhon as one philosopher thought that machines could rapidly evolve and take over the world.

Higgs is invited to dinner with Nosibor, a recovering embezzler. He stays with his family and falls in love with his youngest daughter Arowhena. Nosibor insists that the eldest daughter marry first, so Higgs goes to study at the University of Unreason, where students study anything that has absolutely no practical purpose. Arowhena and Higgs meet there secretly and when Nosibor finds out, he is very angry. Higgs and Arowhena fly away on a balloon. They land in the sea and are taken to England where they marry and plan a missionary trip to Erewhon.

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Enemies

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Kirilov is the district doctor. His six-year old son has just this moment died of diphtheria. He stands watching his wife caress the body as the doorbell rings. It is a wealthy stranger (Abogin) who begs the Doctor to come treat his wife who is in great pain. Kirilov says that he cannot possibly leave his wife at this time. Abogin insists, however, claiming that the doctor must know how terrible it is to witness the illness of a loved one and that his home is close-by. Kirilov relents.

But when they arrive at Abogin’s house, his wife is not home. She has pretended to be ill so that her husband would leave the house allowing her to run away with her lover. Abogin is crushed and begins to complain to Kirilov. Kirilov is fiercely angry that he has been dragged from his son’s death-bed to hear Abogin’s love troubles. They scream at one another, and the doctor returns home, with a firm and undying conviction that all those with money deserve his hatred.

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The Duel

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A group of ex-Muscovites are living in the hot and humid Caucasus. Among them are Laevsky, Nadyezhda Fyodorovna, Von Koren, Samoylenko, and a deacon. Laevsky and Nadyezhda are lovers. They came to the town to flee Nadyezhda’s husband and to live together in their own home. Instead, they remain in rented rooms. Laevsky drinks, gambles, and blankly performs the few tasks necessary in his government job. He spends much of his time figuring out how to get away from Nadyezhda, whom he has grown to hate. Nadyezhda herself is bored and has affairs.

Von Koren is a rigid marine scientist who deplores Laevsky for his indecision and apathetic philosophy. Von Koren believes that creatures like Laevsky who do no good should be killed, because natural selection ought to guide ethical decisions. He tries to act out his plan when the two duel, but is surprised by the Deacon and misses his shot. Laevsky’s shock at his close call drives him back to Nadyezhda.

Samoylenko is a physician and tries to be a peacemaker, but ultimately gets walked on. The Deacon dreams passively about glory in the Church or even in a remote village, but does little except laugh at his neighbors. The story is composed of a series of visits and conversations among the characters.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This five-part poem sketches five vignettes of the poet’s life. First, he sits in the doctor’s waiting room. Second, the doctor says " ’this lump is probably nothing, but . . . ’ " Third, the poet has a biopsy. Fourth, the pathology report, which is positive, " ’But be glad / These things are treatable today . . . Why, fifteen years ago --’ " Finally, the poet is outside on the street, observing "through my / Invisible new veil / Of finity . . . / November’s world."

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

When "death came in out of the cold / And laid a glove on me . . . ." the poet worked feverishly, sang angry songs, "paroled / Myself with garlands of last words." He acted as if he were the hinge of the world. The dramatics were soon over, however, when he "fell into the ocean’s arms . . . . " Later, he "crept back into life as into much / Too large a pair of trousers."

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Dungenessque

Charach, Ron

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This is the sixth collection of poems by Ron Charach, who is a psychiatrist in Toronto, Canada. [See annotations in this database on Past Wildflowers and Petrushkin!] Charach explores his interior landscape with insight, wit, and a prodigious ability to tell a good story. In this collection the poems hone in on the rough, crab-like appendages of mid-life--failed relationships, maturing children, and the existential confrontation with an "uncaffeinated life."

The book begins in the deep waters of outrage, "You are the last objective correlative / the great depression / at once receptive and forbidding . . . " ("Words with the Mariana Trench") Many of the book’s early poems deal with isolation and failure--"YOU NEVER FELT MY PAIN FOR TEN SECONDS." ("Squeezing the Barbarians")--the special angry detachment of love gone sour ("Could my charms have dried up so quickly?" in "Burn Ward.") Later in the book, the poet speaks of friendships ("Rocks and Ages"), life events ("Courtesy of Plastic"), and the larger social and cultural context of his life ("Appelfeld").

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The Endless Search: A Memoir

Ray, David

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In this memoir the poet David Ray describes his troubled childhood and adolescence. Born into a poverty-stricken Oklahoma family, David and his sister lived in a succession of foster homes, after his abusive father walked out and his mother, a needy and often preoccupied woman, found it difficult to care for them. As an adolescent, David was sent to live in Arizona with John Warner, a war veteran who became his "guardian."

From the beginning, Warner sexually abused the troubled adolescent, who spent several years attempting, ineffectually, to escape from his abuser. After graduating from high school in Tucson, Ray accepted a scholarship to the University of Chicago, much against the wishes of his mother, who appeared occasionally in the picture, as well as those of Warner. In Chicago Ray finally freed himself from the abusive pattern.

The memoir provides a heartrending portrait of a succession of dysfunctional relationships, in most of which Ray, or his sister Ellen, emerge as victims or scapegoats. One of these is an intense experience with a sadistic writing instructor named Lowney Handy, who ran a writers’ colony in Illinois, and who may (or may not) have tried to murder David Ray. The book ends with a tension-filled reunion in 1966 between Ray and his biological father, after the young man had successfully completed graduate school and begun his career as a poet and teacher. The old man was just as hurtful as ever, and, reflecting on that last visit and his relationship with his father, Ray recalls some lines from Rilke: it was "so cloudy that I cannot understand / this figure as it fades into the background."

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Dr. Haggard's Disease

McGrath, Patrick

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In this first person narrative, Dr. Edward Haggard addresses his story to James, the son of his former lover Fanny Vaughn. Haggard, once a surgical registrar at a major hospital in London, has isolated himself in a coastal town, where he serves as a general practitioner. The "present" of Dr. Haggard’s story is the early stages of World War II, when James Vaughn, a Royal Air Force pilot, lies dying in Edward Haggard’s arms.

The story’s "past" has multiple dimensions. The outermost, framing story recounts the relationship between James and Edward that began several months before the war and a year or so following Fanny Vaughn’s death from kidney disease. James sought out the reclusive Dr. Haggard to discover the "truth" about Haggard’s relationship with his mother.

The inner story consists of Haggard’s description of his reckless and passionate love affair with Fanny, an ultimately hopeless liaison between a young registrar and the wife of the hospital’s senior pathologist. Their few brief months of happiness ended when Dr. Vaughn learned of the affair, and Fanny made the realistic choice to remain with her husband and adolescent son. In a confrontation between the two men, Vaughn knocked Haggard to the floor, causing a leg injury that resulted in chronic pain and permanent disability.

Haggard resigned from the hospital and withdrew to a solitary life, in which "Spike" (the name he gives to his deformed and painful leg) is his only companion. He must constantly "feed" Spike with intravenous morphine to quell the emotional, as well as physical, pain. The situation only worsens when Haggard learns of Fanny’s death from kidney failure.

The obsession worsens further still after James Vaughn shows up at his door. As Haggard treats the young pilot for a minor wound (he has become the local RAF surgeon), he notices that James has a feminized body habitus--gynecomastia, lack of body hair, broad hips, narrow shoulders, and pre-pubertal penis. He interprets this as "a pituitary disorder" and attempts to convince James that he needs treatment. James is repulsed by these advances, which eventually escalate.

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