Showing 141 - 150 of 268 annotations tagged with the keyword "Mother-Son Relationship"

Minor Surgery

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Nathan was born with a strawberry birthmark on his chest, which both repels and comforts him. Sometimes it is an intricate and unique part of himself that sets him apart from other people and has the power to make him feel special. On the other hand, its very strangeness makes it repulsive to others, especially to women. At his girlfriend’s urging he decides to have the birthmark removed. Despite his doubts, he goes through with the surgery only to realize he has made a big mistake. He blames his girlfriend for his decision.

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Summary:

Young Maurice Hall (James Wilby) is instructed in the facts of life by his well-intentioned teacher (Simon Callow), who warns the fatherless child never to speak of it to his mother or sisters. The boy says that he will never marry; the teacher promises that he will.

Years later, Maurice is at Cambridge, silent, prudish, inexperienced, adhering to his teacher’s wisdom, until he finds himself falling in love with the young aristocrat, Clive Durham (Hugh Grant). When they realize that their affection is mutual, Maurice loses direction as a scholar, skips classes and chapel. He is "sent down" with no hope of return unless he apologizes, which he refuses to do. For his part, Clive acknowledges the powerful sexual feelings, but will not act on them, conscious of the ruin that will befall him and his family if the relations are discovered. He hopes for a life managing his family estate and a career in politics. Platonic love between men is best, he says.

Middle-class Maurice goes into banking and earns a respectable living without a degree. Clive completes his studies and assumes the family estate, but when he decides to marry a woman whom he met in Greece, Maurice is devastated at his own loss and at the monstrous lie that Clive is willing to live.

Perhaps, Maurice wonders, the "love that dare not speak its name" is a disease. He seeks medical advice from the old family friend Dr. Barry (Denholm Elliott) who misunderstands his problem as venereal infection, which he cheerfully offers to treat; however, when Maurice bravely persists by confessing his unnatural longings--on which he still has yet to act--the doctor responds with anger and revulsion. Maurice then consults a sympathetic hypnotist (Ben Kingsley) who tries to cure him; finding the patient resistant, he suggests emigration to a country more accepting of his "kind."

A frequent guest in the strange Durham household, Maurice likes Clive’s vapid wife, sensing without certainty that the marriage is celibate. He falls in love with their gamekeeper, Alec Scudder (Rupert Graves), a deeply intelligent rustic, bound to quit domestic service and Old England for Argentina. Smitten with passion, they conduct a one-night affair. Simultaneously, however, they are wracked with fear: Maurice fully expects Alec to blackmail him; Alec fully expects Maurice to reject him for not being a gentleman. Society makes it nearly impossible for them to trust each other.

Maurice confronts Clive to say goodbye, choosing identity over social approbation, education, wealth, and privilege.

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The Lovely Bones

Sebold, Alice

Last Updated: Aug-30-2006
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Susie Salmon, fourteen years old, is raped, murdered, and dismembered by a serial killer who has moved into the neighbourhood. He disposes of her body in an old sinkhole. Susie is presumed dead when someone’s dog finds her elbow in a cornfield. The rest of her body is never discovered. This novel begins with the murder and follows Susie’s family and friends through the ten years after her death.

Her mother and father separate after he becomes obsessed with proving that Mr. Harvey is the culprit (he is, but evidence is hard to find) and she has an affair with the detective investigating the case. Susie’s sister, Lindsay, grows up as the one who has to stand in for two sisters, one present, one lost; her much-younger brother, Buckley, grows up as the one resenting his family’s dismemberment.

Susie’s schoolfriends grow, too: Ray Singh, who first kissed her, is an early suspect. He becomes a doctor. The sensitive, lesbian, Ruth Connors, is near the cornfield at the moment of Susie’s death and feels something she later realizes was Susie’s soul leaving. She becomes a feminist visionary and poet.

By the end, Susie’s parents have reconciled, Lindsay has married and had a child, and Mr. Harvey, the serial killer, has suffered a death perhaps accidental, certainly just. The strong interpersonal structures that develop after Susie’s death are the "lovely bones" of the title, the narrative rather than material remnants of Susie’s life.

What makes this novel more than an account of loss and grief and recovery (though it is a well-imagined account of this kind) is the fact that it is narrated entirely by Susie, from the perspective of heaven. Heaven is a place of possibility, limited only by the imagination and desires of the dead, and it is a place from which the living can be watched, their lives shared and, perhaps, very occasionally, influenced.

Susie suffers being excluded from her family, but her suffering, her voice implies, is tempered by an extraordinary serenity, a kind of calm that most clearly marks the difference between her condition and that of the living. At the end of the novel she briefly returns to the living, inhabiting Ruth’s body and, with Ray, redeeming and obliterating her own appalling first, lethal, sexual experience. After this she can leave off watching "Earth" all the time, as the horizons of heaven expand beyond those she has left behind.

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Island

Huxley, Aldous

Last Updated: Aug-29-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Will Farnaby, reporter and underground agent for an oil magnate, is shipwrecked on the island of Pala, where for 120 years an ideal society has flourished. In the mid 19th century, a Scottish doctor successfully treated the enlightened Raja of Pala and settled on the island. These two men then designed a perfect society in which (according to the book jacket's description), "sex lives are unabashed; children are carefully conditioned from infancy and none is at the mercy of one set of parents; jobs are assigned according to physique and temperament," and everyone uses "moksha medicine," a drug that sharpens and deepens powers of consciousness.

The Palinese also practice hypnosis, eugenics, and a form of sexual yoga that leads to virtually perfect sexual experience. While Pala has enormous oil reserves, the people are uninterested in developing them because they are happy with their way of life and do not feel the need to become wealthier or more Westernized. Pala's companion island of Rendang is ruled by a ruthless dictator, Colonel Dipa, who plans to develop its oil resources and industrialize the island, while, at the same time, enriching himself.

After his shipwreck, Farnaby is injured climbing a cliff from the beach. He spends time recuperating, during which he meets a number of Palinese people, including Dr. MacPhail (descended from the original Scottish physician) and Murugan, the young man who will soon become the new Raja of Pala. As he learns more about the society, Farnaby comes to respect it and turns away from his plans to promote oil development on the island.

However, Murugan (who was raised largely in Switzerland by a fanatic mother who runs a fundamentalist Christian movement) frowns upon the sexual freedom, drug use, and general lack of "ambition" among his countrymen. He secretly conspires with Colonel Dipa to sell-out Pala. At the end of the book, the army of Rendang has invaded Pala and declared a joint kingdom of Rendang and Pala with Murugan as king and Colonel Dipa as Prime Minister.

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In the Shadow of Memory

Skloot, Floyd

Last Updated: Aug-29-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

I used to be able to think. My brain’s circuits were all connected . . . I had a memory and an intuition that I could trust. So begins Floyd Skloot’s memoir of living his life with "a scatter of white spots like bubbles" in his brain, as a result of a viral illness in 1988 that led to chronic fatigue syndrome and persistent brain damage. The first section ("Gray Area") consists of essays that re-create a texture of mistaken words and memory lapses, as well as the author’s creativity in discovering ways to minimize or bypass disability in his daily life. The temporal vector of this section begins with the onset of illness; continues through his marriage to Beverly and their settling on a hilltop in Oregon; and ends with an idyllic stay on Achill Island off the western coast of Ireland.

The second section draws us back in time to "The Family Story," a series of stories about childhood. In "Kismet," which begins section 3, the author returns to a description of his post-illness experience, in this case to his fateful final visit with an older brother, who is dying of diabetes and kidney failure. Later, in "A Measure of Acceptance," he tells of his encounter with a Social Security psychiatrist, whose task is to determine whether Floyd Skloot is "really" sick. The Social Security Administration provides one measure of acceptance; but the author creates a more important measure of acceptance for himself: "I can say that I’ve become adept at being brain damaged. It’s not that my symptoms have gone away: I still try to dice a stalk of celery with a carrot instead of a knife . . . Along the way, though, I’ve learned to manage my encounters with the world." (p. 196)

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Dirt Cheap

Miller-Lachmann, Lyn

Last Updated: Aug-28-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Nicholas Baran, a one-time student activist, is now in his 40s, teaching at a community college in rural Connecticut after having been denied tenure at an Ivy League school. The tenure denial, despite consistent teaching awards and high performance was clearly politically motivated and instigated by a right-wing professor protecting his turf and the school from a labor-oriented, media-challenging progressive. Nicholas has leukemia, and, upon noticing that he appears to be living in a cancer cluster, begins a private investigation of the large chemical company located just upstream on the river that runs through the town near his neighborhood.

The investigation becomes more intense after he comes upon a local rescue squad retrieving the body of a small boy who has drowned in the river, but whose body reveals effects of considerable acid in the water. Though his wife fears for him and resists his efforts, even to the point of temporarily allying herself (and engaging in a dailliance with) a powerful local real estate broker, Nick finds an ally in his son's teacher, hesitant, but committed to finding out the truth.

Though Nick's disease is progressing rapidly, he and Sandy, the teacher, manage to break into the company's files and retrieve enough damaging evidence to expose deliberate deception of the public as well as documenting the high incidence of cancers in the immediate neighborhood. Before his death Nick manages to supply enough material to the major media to expose the scandal, and leaves a hard-won legacy of truthtelling to his children.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

An imaginative recreation of profound personal loss, the resulting changes wrought by unexpected responsibility as well as opportunity, all occurring during the progression from late adolescence into young adulthood, this work is centered on the death and its aftermath of the author’s parents 32 days apart, when the author was 21 years old (in 1991). With two siblings embarked on their own careers, it was Dave who took on "parenthood" of their eight-year old brother, "Toph."

The book details first, the mother’s death, then, the life that Eggers and Toph negotiate for themselves and with each other after they move from suburban Chicago to Berkeley, California, and, finally, Dave’s return visit to his hometown, wherein he seeks to exorcise some ghosts. In between these landmarks are reflections on family relationships, including that with a shadowy, alcoholic father; the launch of a satiric magazine, "Might" (a title meant to signify both power and possibility); concern for wounded friends; attempts to lead a "normal" life.

While the bare facts of Eggers’s story are unusual enough, the writing is arrestingly original--performative, conversational, brash, yet self-deprecating, funny, and often moving. It is not inaccurate, and will give a flavor of the writing style, to describe the book’s "themes" in the author’s own words (from the 21-page Acknowledgments), for example: "The Unspoken Magic Of Parental Disappearance"--the admission that this traumatic experience of loss "is accompanied by an undeniable but then of course guilt-inducing sense of mobility, of infinite possibility, having suddenly found oneself in a world with neither floor nor ceiling" (xxv); "The Brotherly Love/Weird Symbiosis Factor"; "The Knowingness About The Book’s Self-Conscious Aspect"--an acknowledgment that self-reference is "simply a device, a defense, to obscure the black, blinding, murderous rage and sorrow at the core of this whole story" (xxvii); "The Telling The World Of Suffering As Means Of Flushing Or At Least Diluting Of Pain Aspect"; "The Putting This All Down As Tool For Stopping Time Given The Overlap With Fear Of Death Aspect."

Dave Eggers is on his way to New York with Toph as the book ends. They currently live in Brooklyn, where Eggers produces a quarterly literary journal (Timothy Mcsweeney’s Quarterly Concern, A Journal Created By Nervous People In Relative Obscurity) and a related Web site.

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Mom's Cancer

Fies, Brian

Last Updated: Aug-24-2006
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Graphic Memoir

Summary:

This extraordinary graphic work began its life as a Web comic, posted anonymously, tracing in image and word the story of a son, his sisters and their mother who was diagnosed with a brain tumor, metastatic from her lung.  This comic caught on, and news of it was passed by email and link from reader to reader. About a year later, the author, Brian Fies, was presented the Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic. The entire sequence has now been published in a small, wonderful hardback book that will fit into a lab coat pocket.
 
Fies has managed to capture, in word and graphic panels, the thousand emotions and moments that swirl about a family when cancer changes their lives. He shows us the small, personal gestures and thoughts that we look back upon--how he "didn't lose any sleep" (3) when his mom first fell ill; how his mother both denied the severity of her illness and, at the same time, fell into the abyss of medical examination, radiation, chemotherapy; how he and his sisters assumed various roles in their mother's care and, soon, morphed into "superpowers," each defending his or her own territory (41-44).

Most amazing is how Fies exposes, in honest and poignant visuals, the many points of view of illness--his mother's, his siblings', his own, even the physicians'. His portrayal of how the medical system both confuses, abandons and supports his mother is alone worth the price of the book (39-40). We watch his mother, through his "cartoons," as she moves deeper and deeper into the world of illness, and we see the author's own anger in response to this loss.

He lashes out at smokers (pp 55-56), perfectly portrays the ever-smiling doctor (48-49), captures the odd suspension of a transient ischemic attack (TIA) (68-70), and lets us walk the tightrope of treatment alongside his mother (59-61). He also cleverly interweaves the back-story of his mother's youth, marriage and divorce, his childhood, and a vignette of the sickness and death of a favorite uncle, one whose dying prophesy impacted Fies's life (73-77). The moment when his mother truly understands the severity of her prognosis (94) is stunning.

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Butterfly Effect

Humes, Harry

Last Updated: Aug-24-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

These poems offer a rich series of impressions of the speaker's present life, surrounded by family, a garden, and pockets of natural life that evoke memory after memory of a childhood lived in relative poverty with a father whose years as a coal miner damaged his lungs and finally killed him. Allusions to his chronic and worsening illness and his death thread through the poems like a long shadow.

Recurrent images of his blood-stained handkerchief, his coal-smeared face and hands, are echoed in images of the death of an uncle, the deaths of animals, and of a mother strained by poverty and taking frugal measures to preserve small things. The final poem in the collection recalls her in old age, barely able to see, but still "stitching it all together."

The title poem, one of the best, pauses over the famous idea that the flutter of a butterfly's wings might be the source of large effects continents away. Together the collection invites us, without sentimentality, to consider how things are connected over time and come together in memory in compositions one couldn't have anticipated.

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My Left Foot, excerpt from

Brown, Christy

Last Updated: Aug-21-2006
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

In this short excerpt [from the early section of the book, describing his birth, family, and early childhood], Brown eloquently describes his difficult birth, the hopelessness of his doctors, and the persistent love of his family, especially of his mother. He relates in detail that profound moment when, at age five, he inexplicably grabbed a piece of chalk from his sister’s hand with his left foot and, with great difficulty and incredulity, traced the letter A on a piece of slate. For the first time, his family knew for sure that his intellect was intact. And for the first time, he could start to communicate with them.

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