Showing 141 - 150 of 293 annotations tagged with the keyword "Obsession"

Self-Portrait

Van Gogh, Vincent

Last Updated: Jan-26-2006
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Vincent Van Gogh stares at the viewer from behind steely eyes, his face turned at a three-quarter view. His skin, pallid and yellowed, gives him a slightly jaundiced look. He wears a short red beard that rises to meet the red hair on his head. Intense brush strokes and slathered paint carve out his facial features; the strokes' fury subsides only within Van Gogh's eyes.

He wears a blue cape tied around his neck, the right side of which is painted as distinctly separate from a background of similar color. The other side of his cape more easily fades into the patterned blue background that swirls like a whirlpool around Van Gogh's head. A painter's palette dabbed with various paints occupies the foreground.

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The Beekeeper's Pupil

George, Sara

Last Updated: Dec-01-2005
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The son of a poor widow, Fran├žois Burnens is overwhelmed with his good fortune when he is hired to assist the gentleman-scientist, Fran├žois Huber. Blind since the age of 19, Huber studies bees, helped by his wife in his observations at their Geneva home. Now expecting their second child, the couple realizes that she must concentrate on the family. Through Burnens's diary, from 1785 to 1794, the young man grows as a scientist, a writer, and a human being. Charles Bonnet and other scientists visit in person or in citation.

The domestic drama of the home plays against a backdrop of the menacing turbulence in nearby France. Burnens' admiration, respect and pity for Huber keeps him in the modestly-paid employ for nine long years. But his fascination with an artistically talented young woman shows him that his situation as a valued servant must come to an end.

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Homework

Livesey, Margot

Last Updated: Oct-03-2005
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Celia Gilchrist is an editor in London who is in her thirties waiting for the right man. She meets Lewis, clearly (at least clearly to everyone else in the novel and the reader but not, typically, to Celia) a cad and a womanizer. About the time she realizes this, she receives and accepts a job offer in Edinburgh where she promptly meets Stephen, who is separated from his wife, Helen--a Helen as elusive and mysterious as the Helen of Troy, and also as powerful to affect the lives of others, especially men--and their nine-year-old child, Jenny. Despite Celia's valiant effort to get to know and accept Jenny, Celia and Jenny do not get along. From the very first chapter, which is a flash-forward, to the last page, Celia encounters accidents, lies, damage to her personal property, from dresses to sweaters to jewelry--all when Jenny is in the vicinity. The ending is cataclysmic.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The Civil War antique, 104 year old "General" Sash, is the central figure. For him, "living has got to be such a habit . . . that he couldn't conceive of any other condition." This tale opens with a carefully crafted description of the absolute mutual inability of the principles--Sash and his 62 year old granddaughter, Sally Poker--to operate on the same wave length. Sally dotes on the fabricated fame of her ancient grandfather, and Sash, whose memory is essentially gone except for his recall of "beautiful guls" and his love of being on stage, lives for the moment while scarcely grasping it.

The story evolves around the later-in-life acquisition of a BS degree by Sally, and her need to have her "famous" grandfather behind her at the ceremony in his full Hollywood military attire. The anticipated day, a hot, muggy day in the south, arrives. The principles, with the addition of a 10 year old relative as wheelchair jockey, take their places for the ceremony. The final pages of the story enter--literally and figurative--into the head of the "General" as he perceives his personal "black procession."

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Wish

Goldsworthy, Peter

Last Updated: Aug-15-2005
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

J.J.’s parents are both deaf, so he grew up with Auslan (Australian sign language) as his native "tongue," although he is not deaf and speaks English perfectly. After a disastrous marriage, J.J. returns to live with his parents and to teach sign language at the Deaf Institute. Two students in his beginners’ class befriend him. They are Clive, an elderly man world renowned as a leader of the animal rights movement, and his much younger wife Stella, who is a poet. They soon present J.J. with a mysterious proposition: would he be willing to provide private lessons for their "step-daughter" at their home? We soon learn that their "step-daughter," Wish, is actually a young female gorilla, which they "rescued" from a research laboratory.

At first J.J. is reluctant because he is aware that the purported mastery of signing by non-human primates is not only controversial, but very limited, even if true. However, he discovers that Wish has remarkable cognitive abilities. She learns Auslan quickly and even begins to converse using metaphor and expressing complex topics.

Eventually her story is revealed. She had undergone fetal surgery to remove her adrenal glands, which evidently limit cortical growth in gorillas. Unconstrained by her adrenals (although receiving daily cortisone injections), Wish has developed intelligence far beyond that of other gorillas.

Nonetheless, she is still a sexually mature female gorilla. She falls in "love" with J.J. who, after initially rebuffing her, mates with her. J.J., by the way is quite obese, and so he is much more attractive to Wish than the other human males she encounters, who are all so un-gorilla-like. J.J. and Wish live in connubial bliss for a brief period, until Clive decides to prosecute J.J. for sexually abusing his gorilla, since presumably gorillas cannot give informed consent to sexual activity with humans. (Of course, Wish can and does, because of her super brain, but this concept is a bit too subtle for the frenzied media and the legal system.) After J.J. is arrested and she is removed to a local zoo, Wish becomes depressed and commits suicide. Clive drops the charges, after which the story lumbers to a generally unhappy ending.

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Cast of Shadows

Guilfoile, Kevin

Last Updated: Aug-11-2005
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Set sometime in the near future, Cast of Shadows has as its protagonist Davis Moore, a successful private practice physician specializing in cloning human babies for infertile couples. Early in the book, Anna Kat, his high school senior daughter, is murdered and raped. (For a while a likely suspect is Mickey the Gerund, a right wing extremist member of the Hands of God with a fascinating grammatical moniker never explained, who shoots cloning physicians, including Dr. Moore, in the abdomen, a short time before his daughter, Anna Kat, is brutally killed. However, Mickey is only a shadow of a suspect and quickly becomes supplanted by another much more likely villain. Mickey goes on to kill, by various methods, dozens of cloning physicians and staff by book's end.)

After a year of unsuccessful detective work, the local police return Anna Kat's belongings, including a plastic vial with the suspected murderer-rapist's semen. In an act never fully explored by Dr. Moore or the author, an otherwise rational and ethical physician surreptitiously uses the suspect's semen to fertilize a married woman patient.

The offspring, a clone of the suspected killer-rapist, is Justin, who becomes a formidable presence in the book. He is very intelligent--at his psychologist's advice, his parents provide him at an early age with advanced reading materials like Plato (hence one of the allusions to shadows, i.e., Plato's cave, in the book's title and referenced directly on page 118 and indirectly on page 208) and other philosophers. By the time he is a senior in high school, Justin has become a dominant player in the affairs of Dr. Moore; Sally Barwick, a private investigator-turned journalist; and the suspected killer-rapist--his origin of the species as it were.

This book has a number of subplots all of which radiate from the initial cloning and the various members of the extended family and professional staff involved in it, some knowingly, most not. There are narrative threads involving the suspected murderer rapist-now-prominent attorney, Sam Coyne; the triangle of Dr. Moore and Jackie, his alcoholic wife, and Joan, his attractive pediatrician associate; Mickey the Gerund's various murderous and obsessional religious activities and reflections; Justin's life in school and involvement with Sally Barwick's investigation of a serial killer called The Wicker Man; and, most especially, the development of Shadow World, a computer game and a virtual replica of the real world--the world as Justin, Sally, Sam Coyne, and Dr. Davis Moore know it.

Since this is a thriller, it would be inappropriate to divulge more of the plot, which is intricate, often a little far-fetched but always engaging, highly readable and more labyrinthine than most medical thrillers.

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Visits to St. Elizabeths

Bishop, Elizabeth

Last Updated: Jun-13-2005
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This is the house of Bedlam. So begins the strong poem by Elizabeth Bishop, the woman who wrote of that wretched old man who lived in the house of Bedlam. "This is the man / that lies in the house of Bedlam." So go the two lines of the following stanza of the 1950 poem about the cranky old man who was kept for his crimes in the house of Bedlam. "This is the time / of the tragic man" begins the three lines of the following stanza of the nursery rhyme poem by the consummate poet who wrote of "the Jew in a newspaper hat / that dances joyfully down the ward" and the brilliantly cruel and crazy man who lived in the house of Bedlam.

"This is the soldier home from the war. These are the years and the walls and the door." So starts the 12th and last stanza of the metrical rhyming repetitive poem by one of the finest American poets about Ezra Pound, an American poet, who found himself at the end of the war "walking the plank of a coffin board" and because of his treason becoming the man--the tragic, talkative, wretched and tedious man--who lived in the house of Bedlam. [79 lines]

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Vertigo

Capek, Karel

Last Updated: May-09-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

When a wealthy man falls victim to incapacitating attacks of vertigo, a young doctor decides that the problem and solution both reside in the patient's head. Gierke is an eccentric widower in his forties who remarries. While honeymooning in Italy with his 17-year-old bride, he collapses after looking down from the heights of a bell tower. Gierke becomes paralyzed by a fear of future attacks of vertigo and eventually stops walking.

Multiple physicians evaluate him without success. Finally a neurologist, Dr. Hugo Spitz, is consulted. He wants to try psychoanalysis but the patient has become extremely introverted. Spitz interviews all Gierke's relatives and even hires private investigators. The doctor devises a theory that Gierke murdered his first wife by pushing her off a mountain and then inherited her fortune.

Spitz reasons that Gierke's vertigo is the result of repressed feelings of fear and guilt. After confronting Gierke with the explanation, Spitz orders his patient to stand. Gierke walks without experiencing any dizziness. Immediately after the doctor exits the house, there is a loud sound and Gierke's dead body, fractured in multiple places from a fall, is found at the bottom of the staircase. Spitz deduces it was suicide.

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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.

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Greenleaf

O'Connor, Flannery

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A stray bull has been grazing on Mrs. May's farm for several days. She is outraged that her tenant/farmhand, Mr. Greenleaf, hasn't chased the bull away; and her outrage only grows stronger when she learns that the bull belongs to the tenant's sons, who have settled not far away with their French wives and bilingual children.

Mrs. May is a widow lady whose two sons, both in their mid-30s, live on the farm with her, but have no interest in farming. One sells life insurance to black folks; the other is an intellectual. Mrs. May thinks she knows how to "handle" Mr. Greenleaf; she has employed him for 15 years despite his stupidity and shiftlessness. His wife is a religious fanatic and faith healer. His twin sons, unlike Mrs. May's, went away to the war in Europe, rose in the ranks, came home with European wives, and now each had a piece of good land and three children in a convent school. They also have a bull that escaped, but they evidently don't it want back.

Mrs. May becomes more and more obsessed with the bull that is eating her out of house and home. Finally, she demands that Mr. Greenleaf shoot it and insists on accompanying him to make sure the deed is done. When the bull escapes to the woods, Greenleaf follows it. Shortly thereafter, it comes charging out of the wood directly toward Mrs. May. Mr. Greenleaf finally shoots the bull just after it has gored Mrs. May in the chest and killed her.

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