Showing 141 - 150 of 229 annotations tagged with the keyword "Anatomy"

Lessons from the Art

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Jan-13-2005
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Selzer tells four stories of surgical loss: a surprise loss on the operating table, the drowning of a sick child in a flood in wartime Korea, the sudden death of a professor due to a perforated ulcer, and the loss of some facial mobility in a young woman following the removal of a tumor in her cheek. As we move from one vignette to the next, the narrator's mood goes from despair to accepting to redeemed, with various forms of love the agent.

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The Surgeon as Priest

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Jan-13-2005
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Selzer begins by describing an anonymous painting of Vesalius at the dissecting table, about to cut into the cadaver in front of him, yet glancing over his shoulder at a crucifix on the wall behind him. He then tells two medical stories in which spirituality has played a crucial role.

In the first, a man who has repeatedly refused to have a brain cancer operated on turns up one day healed, attributing it to the holy water a family member brought back from Lourdes. In the second, the Dalai Lama's personal physician does rounds in an American hospital and, using ancient techniques, diagnoses correctly, and in some detail, a case of congenital heart disease.

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Summary:

Fin (Peter Dinklage)--short for Finbar--is an achondroplastic dwarf and a taciturn lover of trains. He repairs toy trains in a shop run by a tall elderly black man. When the shop owner dies suddenly and bequeaths Fin a "house" in Newfoundland, New Jersey, Fin, jobless, uproots himself to seek out his inheritance. The house turns out to be a deserted, former Station House adjacent to train tracks and is located in an abandoned section of the community.

Fin tries to make the house livable, sleeps on a sofa, and relocates the outside mailbox so that he can reach it. Once he can demonstrate that he receives mail and pays bills at that location, he applies for a library card--he is an avid reader of train lore. Fin seems content to sit on an outdoor bench, clocking the trains that pass by, reading his books, walking the tracks, and keeping to himself in his little house.

Two people interrupt his solitude: Joe (Bobby Cannavale), a gregarious young man who has taken over his sick father's food truck stand--and Olivia (Patricia Clarkson), an artist and divorcee who twice nearly runs Fin off the road in her small SUV. Joe tries repeatedly to engage Fin in conversation and comraderie; Olivia makes fumbling apologetic overtures to Fin. Fin grudgingly begins to engage with Joe and Olivia and they become a threesome as Joe and Olivia follow Fin on his train track walks, sit with him as he clocks trains, and share dinner at Olivia's waterfront home.

Each of the three protagonists is a wounded soul. Fin endures startled glances, snickering whispers, outright rude comments, and even invisibility--a supermarket cashier passes him over for the next customer because she does not see him; he longs for a "normal" body that would allow him to physically defend himself; he longs for a normal sex life. Joe is "happy-go-lucky" on the surface, but is under the thumb of a domineering father who makes frequent calls to Joe's cell phone. Joe tries, unsuccessfully, to court Olivia. Olivia is enveloped in guilt and mourning over her young son's death and thinks she is still in love with her former husband.

Two other individuals play a role in Fin's new life: the pretty, young librarian (Michelle Williams) who tells Fin that he has "a nice chin" and confides to him that she is pregnant by her boyfriend, a boorish local she has not yet told; and Cleo (Raven Goodwin), a preteen black girl who is curious about Fin's train knowledge, and seeks his friendship. Cleo enlists Fin, against his will, to speak about trains to her school class.

Olivia triggers Fin's outburst of pent-up rage and frustration: she rejects his concerned vigil, when, for days on end, she refuses to leave her house or answer her telephone. The despondent Fin goes to the local bar, downs glass after glass of whiskey, sitting alone; thoroughly drunk, he smashes his glass, climbs up on the bar, gesticulating and yelling at the crowd to "go ahead, look at me, here I am!" (paraphrase). Staggering out onto the train tracks, he falls as an approaching train barrels down on him. He smiles up into the train lights, seeming to welcome what appears to be certain death.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

Among animals only humans have difficulty giving birth. While other primates deliver their babies with little fuss, women experience painful labor and childbirth. The explanation for this discrepancy lies in the size of the human head at birth. As hominids evolved ever larger and larger brains, the fetal head had to increase in size at birth. Eventually the head almost outstripped the female pelvis's ability to expand enough to allow it through the birth canal. This delicate balance between fetus and pelvis accounts for human fetal and maternal morbidity and mortality.

As a response to the growing threat of childbirth, human females evolved away from estrus (i.e. sexual receptivity only when ovulating) to the menstrual cycle and continuous sexual receptivity. The mysterious moon-related cycle led women to formulate the concept of "time" and make the connection between sex and pregnancy. It also allowed them to refuse sex when they were ovulating.

Women then taught time consciousness to men, and men used their growing self-consciousness to begin to establish control over nature (and women). The sense of being-in-time led inevitably to awareness of mortality. This, in turn, stimulated humans to create gods and religion in order to ward off death anxiety.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This selection of Miroslav Holub's poems is organized around five major topics--genealogy, anthropology, semiology, pathology, and tautology--rather than chronologically. The poems, some of which date back to his first collection in 1958, were translated into English by a number of different persons, but mostly by David Young, who has had a long-term collaboration with Holub.

Holub states his major preoccupation in "Bones," the very first poem in this collection: "We seek / a backbone / that will stay / straight." (p. 13) The search reaches its fullest expression in "Interferon," a long poem about messages, messengers, and interference: "Cells infected by a virus / send signals out . . .

And when a poet dies, deep in the night / a long black bird wakes up in the thicket / and sings for all it's worth." (p.159) The first step in the search is to learn to interpret the signals, and to understand the black bird's song. To do that, one has to ask questions. Yet, in the face of enormous "Suffering," we are drawn to passivity: "But I ask no questions, / no one asks any questions, / because it's all quite useless." (p. 147) How to overcome the inertia and proceed, even in the face of likely failure?

Holub reminds us that even "In the Microscope" we find "cells, fighters / who lay down their lives / for a song." (p. 149) In fact, there may be something worth fighting for, although perhaps we can only see it under extreme circumstances, as in "Crush Syndrome," where a concrete mixer snaps up the hand of a man cleaning it: "The finger bones / said a few things you don't hear very often...In that moment / I realized I had a soul." (p. 174). But perhaps what we call the soul is really just our deep yearning to survive, as in "Heart Transplant": "It's like a model of a battlefield / where Life and Spirit / have been fighting / and both have won." (p. 179)

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Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Collection (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

Fifteen selections--short stories, essays, and memoir--make up this collection. Two stories are notable: The Whistlers' Room and Atrium: October 2001 (see annotations). The title story is a translation and retelling of an obscure German tale published 75 years ago. Set in a military hospital in Germany during World War I, four soldiers share a common wound--throat injuries and laryngeal damage necessitating a tracheostomy for each man. This remarkable quartet of patients forges a fellowship of the maimed.

"Atrium: October 2001" describes the random meeting between a physician and a terminally ill teenager in the hospital atrium. The subject of death dominates their discussion. "Parable" chronicles an elderly doctor's efforts to comfort a dying man, and in the process, ease both their suffering.

Excerpts from Selzer's diary reveal much about the character of the author as well as the characters in his life. He also reminisces about growing up in Troy, New York. Approximately one-quarter of the book is devoted to Selzer's musings on works of art (sculpture and painting). Lighter fare includes a discussion of life behind the podium, a description of his home, and a new ending for A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

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Evidence of Things Unseen

Wiggins, Marianne

Last Updated: Oct-12-2004
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This book interweaves an American love story with the development and repercussions of x-ray technology and atomic energy. It is an intriguing and beautifully written story. The setting is the southeastern United States, where the male protagonist, Fos, meets and marries Opal. Fos is a returning World War I veteran when the story begins; the story ends some years after the atomic bomb is dropped in World War II.

Fos is stationed in France during World War I. His assignment is to produce chemical flares. He shares a trench bunker with "Flash," the regiment photographer. After the war is over, Fos and Flash open up a photography shop in Flash's hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. Fos is fascinated by natural phenomena such as phosphorescence, radiation, and the application of scientific discoveries for practical use. Flash is a good businessman and has a way with the ladies.

After Fos marries Opal, the three are in business together--Opal has accounting experience and handles the shop's "books." On the side, Fos and Opal have a traveling show that features an "x-ray box" where people can view the skeleton of their own feet. Opal is part of the show, on exhibit to demonstrate how this works as Fos x-rays her feet. A baby comes into their lives--they name him Lightfoot. The novel takes these characters and a few other connected figures through the 1920s into the Depression of the 1930s and formation of the Tennessee Valley Authority, to the work on the atomic bomb at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Fos is recruited by the government to work at Oak Ridge--to take photographs. To say any more about the plot would spoil the pleasure of reading this absorbing book.

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Conundrum

Morris, Jan

Last Updated: Jul-22-2004
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

As James Morris, the author was the dashing journalist who covered the first successful ascent of Everest in 1953 for The Times of London; a member of the elite and quintessentially male 9th Queen's Royal Lancers ("famous for their glitter and clublike exclusivity"--p. 27); the husband who married Elizabeth, fathering several sons. But, as the writer says in the first sentence of the book, "I was three or perhaps four years old when I realized that I had been born into the wrong body, and should really be a girl. I remember the moment well [James was sitting beneath his mother's piano], and it is the earliest memory of my life."

Realizing he was a member of a tangled (a favorite word of the author) group of transsexuals, James felt himself trapped in a conundrum of gender (he felt and considered himself female) versus sex (he was genotypically and phenotypically male). "To me gender is not physical at all, but is altogether insubstantial; it is soul, perhaps, it is talent it is the essentialness of oneself" (25). (Morris goes on to quote C. S. Lewis's Perelandra.)

After some fruitless interactions with the medical profession, Morris travels to Casablanca in the summer of 1972 to undergo sex-changing surgery and becomes Jan Morris. Unlike many if not most transsexuals, post-operatively Morris fared quite well emotionally and has, to date, been quite happy with the change (see below). Jan Morris's writing is as humorous and eloquent as James Morris's was. She describes (magazines like Rolling Stone and publishers like Random House and thousands of readers have never cared what gender or sex was holding the pen) how life changed in clubs, restaurants, and in taxi-cabs, where Jan met the first man to kiss her, post-surgery, "in a carnal way" (151). (Morris records that "all I did was blush.")

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The Anatomy Lesson

Goldberg, Marshall

Last Updated: Jul-22-2004
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The time is 1954 and the place Boston. Dan Lassiter is a first year medical student back from Inchon and the Korean War, taking--and in danger of failing--anatomy when he becomes obsessed with his cadaver, a young and very well proportioned man he thinks must have been a boxer. As he tries to pass anatomy under the withering and authoritarian attention of Dr. Nathan Snider, a stern anatomist who worships at the altar of Vesalius, Dan discovers that his cadaver is a very physically fit young man, whose death fascinates him and about whom his professor will not yield any information. Using his newspaper connections with one of several women he's dating, Dan discovers that the cadaver Dr. Snider refused to identify was Rick Ferrar, a fearless boxer who was fast friends with Lemuel Harper, an African-American and also, like Dan, a veteran of the Korean War.

The remainder of the book resolves the familial baggage Dan is carrying from his parents' death and then his brother's; his quest for the character and mode of death of Rick Ferrar; the intertwining of his and Rick's personalities, girlfriend, and destinies; and his medical school career, which at times seems more a hobby than a serious pursuit. By novel's end all the subplots are resolved and Dan, attending a funeral for the class's cadavers, volunteers to work with Dr. Snider in the anatomy lab to improve his mediocre knowledge of anatomy.

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Body Art

Byatt, A. S. (Antonia Susan)

Last Updated: Jul-02-2004
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A young art student falls off a ladder and literally lands into the arms of a middle-aged doctor. Daisy Whimple is a poor, homeless woman with multiple body piercings. She has volunteered to decorate the Gynae Ward of the hospital where she had once been a patient undergoing surgery for a complicated abortion.

Dr. Damian Becket is an obstetrician and gynecologist. He is a lapsed Catholic who is separated from his wife. Becket is interested in modern art and attracted to an art historian, Martha Sharpin. The hospital has a collection of medical antiquities in need of cataloging. Some of the pieces are treasures but others are horrible relics. Martha is in charge of organizing the collection, and Daisy is paid to assist her.

Because she has nowhere to live, Becket invites Daisy to stay at his apartment. They make love every night for one week until she leaves. While attending an art exhibit, Becket and Martha spot a sculpture of the goddess Kali. The figure is comprised of artifacts "borrowed" from the hospital's collection including prosthetic arms, antiquated instruments, and body parts. It is designed by Daisy.

The sculpture is not the only unexpected thing created by Daisy. She is pregnant by Becket. Daisy requests an abortion but he insists that she have the baby. The pregnancy is almost miraculous given the damage done to Daisy's fallopian tubes from her previous abortion. It turns out to be a difficult delivery and Becket must perform it since he is the most qualified obstetrician at the hospital. The baby is a healthy girl. The newborn child radically changes the lives of Daisy, Becket, and Martha, yet the three of them have no clue what to do next.

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