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This collection of sixteen Chekhov stories brings together in one volume many of Chekhov’s finest tales about doctors. The chronologically-arranged collection includes the famous novella, Ward 6, as well as such shorter classics as An Awkward Business and A Doctor’s Visit. In all sixteen stories, the doctor is a major figure, often at the center of a moral conflict.
Robert Coles , in his thoughtful forward, notes that Chekhov raises the "big questions" about "the meaning and purpose of life and the manner it ought to be conducted (and why)." Himself the editor of William Carlos Williams’s doctor stories, Coles recognizes and honors the comparison between Chekhov’s and Williams’s works and their dual careers as physician-writers. Jack Coulehan, in his introduction and comments, provides interesting biographical information on the great Russian writer as well as insightful interpretations of each story.
Summary:The story takes place in the town of Weston, the site of Weston Medical School, with its teaching hospital and private faculty clinic. The main characters are a group of seven men (six physicians and one administrator) who met while serving together in the Army during the Korean War and later joined to form the nucleus of Weston Medical School. These men all occupy prestigious positions as chiefs of various clinical departments and conduct lucrative private practices at the clinic.
Summary:"Mercury" is a 41-line, free-verse poem divided into three stanzas. Although the narrative is filled with highly personal images, the poem's story is told from a third person point of view which serves to universalize the poem's theme: the often mechanical struggle of a couple to achieve pregnancy, and the fragility and innate sadness of that struggle.
Summary:This first person short story is narrated by a waitress who is describing to her friend, Rita, her experiences with a very obese and ugly man--and its effects on her relationship with her husband. She gives a detailed description of the fat man’s appearance, of his eating, and of his particularly kind nature. Then she describes her unfulfilling relationship with Rudy which now (after the fat man) seems wrong for her.
Cookson Selway has had a problematic childhood (his mother dressed him as a girl and his father was a murderer) and a complex youth (after dealing cocaine and becoming an alcoholic, he went into the restaurant business, made a fortune and retired at thirty-nine). Now 44, he is settled into wealthy middle age, living in Massachusetts with his wife, Ellen, a mystery writer, and his teenage daughter, Jordan. When Jordan goes away to boarding school, Cook and Ellen move to London so that Ellen can research a new novel.
Cook, always unconventional, sometimes sees things no-one else can, and in England, his condition, whatever it is, becomes worse. He begins to believe that the Willerton, the old hotel he and Ellen stay in, is haunted. He encounters three "ghosts," a small boy, an adolescent girl, and a man about his own age who is always drunk and repulsively lascivious. He learns that, years before, a girl died after jumping or falling from an upstairs window. It is rumored that she had been sexually abused by her drunk uncle. The only other person who seems aware of the ghosts is Pascal, the French bellboy, who soon becomes Cook’s ally.
Cook begins acting increasingly strangely, and his wife and the people she befriends (in particular the Sho-pans, an elderly Chinese couple) are convinced that Cook has started drinking again or is having some kind of mental breakdown. The reader is never given a final explanation for what happens; the "ghosts" certainly seem to reenact events from the hotel’s history, but they are also deeply linked to Cook’s own obsessions. They are all, perhaps, aspects of himself. Both fascinated and horrified, he is unable to reject them, even as his obsession estranges his wife. Only when it causes the death of Pascal is he able to leave the hotel and, perhaps, the ghosts. The couple return to America, and tentatively begin to recover.
Elsa Walsh profiles three women of extraordinary achievement: Meredith Vieira, "60 Minutes" television correspondent; Rachel Worby, conductor for the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra; and Alison Estabrook, chief of breast surgery at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. Even though the women represent remarkable levels of success, the in-depth portrayals reveal enormous personal costs to each of the individuals. Their separate efforts to balance professional and personal goals often lead to irreconcilable conflicts and then to questions about burdens placed upon women who refuse to follow imposed expectations and blueprints.
Readers will sympathize with Meredith Vieira’s struggle to overcome high-risk pregnancies and retain her highly visible and highly paid position on the CBS news team. The measures established to prevent previous miscarriages and accommodate her medical needs eventually lead to friction and discord among co-workers and staff. As the following anecdote demonstrates, Meredith refuses to separate her roles as journalist and mother. When the baby is born and salary negotiations begin, Meredith brings her infant son to the Tavern on the Green lunch meeting so that she can nurse the baby on demand. The executives are flabbergasted by her behavior and by her announcement that she intends to become pregnant again.
Rachel Worby’s story concerns the tensions between an artist’s work, milieu, and spirit and those associated with the widowed Governor of West Virginia, the man she agrees to marry. Both are accomplished, he is rich, and the love between them is healthy and strong.
Nevertheless, the worlds they occupy impose divisive expectations. She does not conform to the assumed role of Governor’s wife; it is both difficult and impossible to regulate her bombastic and vivacious personality and style.
The final story centers on Alison Estabrook as she struggles to become the chief of breast surgery in a professional world seemingly intent on placing unacceptable barriers in her way. Readers will anguish over this infuriating account of suppression by a patriarchal system.
Forty-something, a surgeon’s wife, Mrs. Sheila Redden of Ireland arrives in Paris en route to the south of France for a second honeymoon. She has booked the same hotel room as the first honeymoon. Her husband, Kevin, is delayed by his surgical obligations, and promises to join her, but she knows that he is not keen on the trip.
While in Paris she meets Tom, an American at least ten years younger who follows her to the south. They begin a love affair that overwhelms her with its emotional and sexual power. Kevin stays home, at her urging, but he becomes suspicious and uses a fake illness in their teenage son in an attempt to lure her back. Then he flies to the resort to confront her. His brutal manner convinces Sheila to leave him.
Tom wants her to return with him to Vermont. She consults a priest for advice. In desperation Kevin appeals to Sheila’s brother, also a physician. They medicalize her love for Tom as a symptom of early menopause and try to bring her home. Allowing Tom (and the reader) to believe she will go with him, she finally decides for a job in London and solitude in modest rented rooms.
Carl McKelvey returns to his home town in eastern Ontario, looking for work, anxious to see his daughter, and not daring to hope that his broken marriage with Chrissy can be rebuilt. She is living with Fred, who has political aspirations. He finds his widowed father, William, living in a senior’s home, disoriented and angry. The local politician/used-car salesman gives Carl work renovating a house and renting videos, but only the reclusive Adam seems to take an interest in his well-being.
Through a series of flashbacks told from shifting perspectives, the people of this small community are gradually connected to each other through their relationships with Carl’s sophisticated mother, Elizabeth. She was killed a decade ago on New Year’s Eve, when her car crashed into an oak tree, her drunken son at the wheel. Guilt, remorse, and shame plague Carl, but he little realizes that the same feelings combined with regret are the constant companions of Adam who was once Elizabeth’s improbable lover and Carl’s biological father.
Adam sifts through a series of secret, wild plans intended to "save" Carl. Finally, he drives himself and Fred into the same tree that killed Elizabeth, leaving his estate and a letter for Carl. In the end, Carl seems to have reclaimed his daughter and reestablished his life, but his future with Chrissy is ambiguous.
This is a complex and, at times, very amusing story about modern life in an affluent Mexican family. Generational differences--and similarities--between a physician-grandfather (Xavier Masse) and his children and grandchildren, are important to the story, but the relationship between the wise grandfather and his most charismatic grandson, Rocco (Osvaldo Benavides), is central. Family issues concern money and greed, but also surprising expressions of love.
The story begins in a lovely Mexico City home where family members feud and fuss continuously. After the grandfather’s sudden death during a heated dinner table outburst with his selfish adult son, Rodrigo (Otto Sirgo), two grandsons kidnap the old man’s ashes and head to Acapulco in a "stolen" car so as to dispose of them according to their beloved grandfather’s request. Their journey is funny and full of adolescent shenanigans. In Acapulo, a secret is discovered about the grandfather that gives the story a wonderful twist.
The scene is painted on the diagonal, which is both destabilizing and draws the viewer immediately into the picture. In the right foreground looms a large oval or round brown table on which sit a box of matches and a half-full tumbler of clear liquid. As the viewer’s eye follows the tumbler diagonally back, a gray-haired, balding man wearing a brown suit or robe is seated at the table, leaning back in his chair, smoking a cigar.
Behind the cigar smoker, near a corner of the room, standing with her back to the man, is a woman dressed in a white blouse and black skirt. She leans with her bent left arm on a chest of drawers and rests her chin on her right hand, leaning on her bent right elbow. Her features are not clearly visible, but her eyes appear to be closed. A painting of a woman’s upper body hangs above her on the wall that faces the viewer.