Showing 151 - 160 of 293 annotations tagged with the keyword "Obsession"

The Sound Machine

Dahl, Roald

Last Updated: Nov-12-2004
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

I like sound. This declaration by the peculiar protagonist, Klausner, speaks volumes about his character. He builds a device intended to transform inaudible high frequency tones into sounds that can be discerned by the human ear. His invention is a three-foot long black box resembling a small coffin that contains a complex electronic mechanism.

Klausner takes his machine outdoors to test it. At first, all he hears through the earphones connected to the contraption is a humming noise, but soon he perceives a shriek each time his neighbor cuts the stem of a rose in her garden. He decides to experiment further. Klausner strikes a large beech tree with an axe and immediately hears an unsettling noise similar to a scream. He apologizes to the tree.

Klausner telephones his personal physician and implores him to come immediately. When Dr. Scott arrives, Klausner asks him to don the earphones. The inventor smacks the tree once more with the axe. Only this time, a large branch comes crashing down smashing the sound machine to pieces and barely missing Klausner. He asks Dr. Scott what he heard, but the physician is not sure. Klausner insists that the gash in the tree trunk be sutured, but the doctor explains he cannot suture through wood. Still holding his axe, Klausner commands the physician to paint the cut with iodine and check on the tree tomorrow.

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The Surgeon

Csáth, Géza

Last Updated: Nov-12-2004
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The unnamed narrator, a physician, notices a surgeon in a "seedy cafe on the edge of town." (73) He learns from the waiter that the shabby man with the "aristocratic demeanor" is "a doctor: Surgeon once" (73). The surgeon hears the narrator call for medical papers and makes his acquaintance. One night soon thereafter the narrator notices that the surgeon, sitting and drinking alone, drains the green syrup of his absinthe "so slowly and pleasurably" (74) that he must be, in fact is, an alcoholic.

The latter approaches the narrator and begins elaborating a complicated theory of time and how it is an internalized, organically controlled, locus in the brain, no different "from an ordinary brain cell" (77). As such, he, the surgeon, proposes to cut it out, imagining, grandiloquently, vast seas of gratitude washing up on his shore as he frees humanity of the "silent madness of mortality" (78). The surgeon ends with a toast to absinthe, "a drug to be taken orally, and which is useful against time, temporarily. . . . We won’t be needing it much longer, since the surgical method’s both radical and excellent. Cheers, my dear colleague!" (78-79)

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Riding the Flume

Pfitsch, Patricia Curtis

Last Updated: Oct-22-2004
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Set in 1894 and based on a history of the logging projects among the California sequoias, this is a story of Francie, whose sister died in an accident six years earlier. She chafes under her parents' excessive protectiveness since Carrie's death. She loves the woods, and longs to do something to keep the loggers from cutting down the ancient sequoias, especially the oldest and largest, a tree over 2500 years old. Through a little sleuthing based on her sister's diary, she finds out that the property on which the ancient tree sits actually belongs to an old hermit, not to the logging company.

In an effort to get the company to stop before cutting the oldest tree, she rides the dangerous log flume into town to alert the one journalist she knows will support her cause. They arrive in time to save that tree and some of the others, and, perhaps as importantly to Francie, her mother and father begin to see her not only in terms of their loss of Carrie, but as a young woman independently interesting, daring, and very much alive.

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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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The Tell-Tale Heart

Poe, Edgar Allan

Last Updated: Oct-18-2004
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The unnamed narrator of the story is a "dreadfully nervous" character who disputes the allegation that he might be crazy. He contends that his disposition arises from a heightening of the senses: "Above all was the sense of hearing acute" (74). The narrator provides care for a wealthy elderly man. For some inexplicable reason, the narrator becomes obsessed with the diseased eye of the old man. The narrator likens it to a vulture’s eye and is so haunted by the Evil Eye that he decides to murder the old man.

He meticulously plans the murder. After one week of preparation, the narrator charges into the old man’s bedroom after midnight and kills him using the heavy bed the victim had been sleeping in to either crush or suffocate him. Even after the murder, the victim’s heart continues beating for many minutes. The narrator carefully dismembers the body in a tub. He conceals all the pieces under the floor boards.

At four o’clock in the morning, three policemen arrive. A neighbor heard a scream and notified the police. They are here to investigate. The narrator maintains his composure and even entertains the police. After all, he has committed the perfect crime. Suddenly, he hears a repetitive noise like the ticking of a watch. At first soft, the sound grows louder and louder. No one else hears it. What is the cause of the noise--paranoia, his conscience, auditory hallucinations, a supernatural clue, or (most likely) the sound of his own pounding heart? The narrator can no longer tolerate the thumping and confesses to the murder: "I admit the deed!--tear up the planks!--here, here!--it is the beating of his hideous heart!" (78)

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Pilgrim

Findley, Timothy

Last Updated: Oct-12-2004
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The narrative of Pilgrim and his psychiatrist, Carl G. Jung, begins with Pilgrim's most recent unsuccessful attempt to kill himself. The surrealistic nature of the tale begins with this mysterious inability of the title character to exit life--a life self-proclaimed to have covered multiple incarnations over millennia each of which he has memory. His friend and his servants take him to Zurich to the renowned psychiatrist's clinic for institutionalization and therapy. Enter Dr. Jung, whose personal and professional life assumes a dominant role in the narrative.

As the story progresses, the reader learns from Pilgrim's journals the interstices of his seemingly endless voyage. While Pilgrim's tale--real or imagined--is progressively revealed, the immediate lives of the Jungs are explored in increasing depth. Layer upon layer of development of plot, past and present, is peeled away until Pilgrim escapes his prison and Jung's emotional chaos is exposed.

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Esther (Marina de Van, who also directed the film) is a young urban professional woman. At a party, she goes out into the dark garden and trips, falling and tearing her trousers. Only several hours later does she realize that she has seriously wounded her leg. This is either the beginning of, or the first evidence of, a radical shift in her relationship with her own body.

The doctor who stitches the wound is surprised that she had not felt injury, and tests her for neurological damage, finding none. She starts cutting at the wound, refusing to let the skin close. Her boyfriend, Vincent (Laurent Lucas) and her friend Sandrine are both concerned and repelled by her behavior. She experiences a kind of separation from her body, and it appears that her mutilation of it is an effort to re-anchor herself in her own flesh.

At an important business dinner with clients, she drinks too much and suddenly experiences her left arm as separate from her body, a severed object that threatens to act on its own. She has to stop her left hand from playing with her food and, holding her arm on her lap, she cuts it as if to make it feel, to use pain to reattach it. To explain away the damage she has done to herself, she has to fake a car accident.

Eventually the compulsion exceeds her ability to control it, and she enters a crescendo of mutilation. She hurts her body with calm, detached interest, cutting her face, attempting to tan a piece of skin she has removed from herself, even eating her own flesh. At the end of the film she is alone, in some kind of new state that is not explained.

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Sweet Thames

Kneale, Matthew

Last Updated: Jul-26-2004
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The young and upwardly mobile engineer, Joshua Jeavons, is obsessed with finding a solution to the water problems of 19th-century London. He spends almost every spare moment drawing and re-drawing maps of his precious drainage plans destined to save the city from the stench of effluent, which everyone believes is the source of cholera. His boss, Augustus Moynahan, is unimpressed with Joshua's plans, but allows him to continue analyzing sewers and drains. They work in conjunction with a master plan of coercive bureaucrats, led by Edwin Sleak Cunningham and manipulated by private interest.

Joshua has married the boss's daughter, Isobella, who had seemed more than eager to have him over her father's objections; however, she rebuffs all his physical attentions and the marriage is unconsummated. Brimming with sexual need and self-pity, Joshua continues a sporadic liaison with a friendly prostitute, all the while resenting what he decides must be his wife's infidelity.

When Isobella vanishes on the night of a disastrous dinner party, Joshua's fortunes plummet. He is reduced to poverty and shame, as he replaces his first obsession with the quest for his lost spouse--to reclaim her or kill her, he knows not. But his contact with urchins and beggars brings him to discover the real causes of pollution and disease--both environmental and moral.

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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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The Waters of Thirst

Mars-Jones, Adam

Last Updated: Jun-14-2004
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Just as the new plague that will eventually become known as AIDS begins to exact its toll on the gay community, William and Terry slide somewhat unintentionally into a committed relationship, complete with a dog. Terry has issues with the modest size of his penis; being "married" absolves him from performance anxiety.

Almost equally furtive, William has inherited polycystic kidney disease from his mother and is on dialysis, with the severe dietary restrictions and merciless thirst that it entails. William professes to Terry that size doesn't matter, but he indulges in elaborate fantasies about Peter Hunter, a well-endowed star of porn magazines; he becomes an obsessive collector of Hunter's work.

Terry and William are insulated by their singular bond from the havoc of AIDS, but William finds himself compelled to hunt the stigmata of that disease in photos of the exposed and hidden portions of Hunter's anatomy. When he realizes that motorbike riders are prone to becoming organ donors, he cultivates a fascination with their behavior and their machines, following them in his car and tracking statistics. Finally, a matched biker kidney is found for William, but the immunosuppressive drugs, which are given to help him tolerate the transplant, make him very ill. He is admitted with opportunistic pneumonia, ironically, to an AIDS ward.

More than once William says, "I went to sleep next to someone I knew and I woke side by side with a stranger," The book closes with a surreal dream-like sequence, as William takes leave of his lover. It could be continued life, readjusted by this brush with mortality toward a bold new freedom. On the other hand, it could be death itself, and the story suddenly becomes the memoir of a ghost.

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