Showing 151 - 160 of 298 annotations contributed by Aull, Felice
This is a harrowing story, told in the first person, of an obsession with food and body image. "One day I will be thin enough", says Josie, the 25 year old anorectic woman who has been hospitalized for life-threatening self-starvation. "Just the bones, . . . the pure, clear shape of me." "One day I will be pure consciousness." The narration spins out in painful detail the pattern of compulsive behavior which pervades Josie’s existence. Her pitifully barren emotional life is revealed as well.
How did it all begin? Flashbacks of significant events invade Josie’s attempts to stop thinking. A shy, awkward adolescent, overly sensitive to casual comments about excess flesh, decides to diet. Josie stumbles non-communicatively through a teen-age sexual initiation to a later affair with her married professor, retreating ever further from her bewildered family.
But why do events take such an extreme turn? The mystery of anorexia nervosa remains. In the hospital, a nurse who has seen everything seems to strike some responsive cord, and Josie begins eating to gain weight. At the end of the novel she’ll soon be released , under supervision, but the outcome is in doubt. "Can I learn to be so present? Can I learn to be so full?" ". . . if I were a body, what would I be?"
This poem captures the last thoughts and sensations of a person on her death bed. Surrounded by mourners who are bracing themselves for her death, the narrator’s focus as she dies is on the most mundane of living creatures: a buzzing fly. The final ebb of consciousness is depicted as a loss of light and sight: "And then the Windows failed--and then / I could not see to see--."
The narrator describes the disorientation felt as she attempted unsuccessfully to organize her thoughts. The "sequence [of thoughts] ravelled out of reach / Like balls upon a floor."
The narrator, who has narrowly escaped death, feels as if there were "odd secrets . . . to tell" to the world of the living. She speculates about her next (and last) encounter with death, anticipating it with curiosity, and resigning herself to the "slow tramp [of] the centuries."
The setting is the California coast (presumably in the Los Angeles area). The narrator recalls her one and only hospital visit to her best friend, who was dying. Why has it taken her so long to make this visit? Because she is afraid.
When she arrives, her friend is wearing a surgical mask, and so must she. They talk about inconsequential things, bantering, but then her friend says that there "is a real and present need here . . . like for someone to do it for you when you can’t do it yourself." The narrator tells her sick friend the story of a dog who "knows when to disobey."
The narrator remembers how she and her friend played a word-game to ward off earthquakes. Now, however, it is not a question of "if" but only of "when." When the narrator returns to her friend’s hospital room after taking a walk on the beach, there is a second bed there. The narrator knows it is meant for her, so that she can keep vigil. Both women take a nap, but on awakening, the narrator says, "I have to go home."
Summary:The narrator describes his experiences as an after-hours cleaning person in the autopsy room. The macabre nature of the work carried out there during the day by the medical professionals (who appear to take it for granted) is vividly impressed on the narrator when he comes upon "a pale and shapely leg." This evokes his own memories and feelings of sexuality. He is disturbed, no longer "has the strength of ten," and can’t involve himself with his wife when he goes home.
An empathetic physician feels as if there were "no boundary" between him and his patient, until he "intrude[s]" by drawing blood. As the patient’s "sufferance rises" during the painful procedure, the physician feels that he is breaking the Hippocratic Oath by adding to the patient’s suffering.
Summary:A mother reflects on the significance of her daughter’s anticipated departure for college. She compares how she felt before the birth of her daughter--unable to imagine what life would be like with her--and how she feels now, unable to imagine life without her. Since her birth, the child has been an essential part of the mother’s life, "like food or air . . . like a mother."
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.
The narrator, a writer who was a soldier in Vietnam, discusses what he calls "story-truth" and "happening-truth." Telling stories, he says, can "make things present." The narrator challenges the reader to determine whether or not the tragic wartime episode that he describes really occurred. At the same time, he makes clear that it is "story-truth" that gives meaning to life.