Showing 151 - 160 of 522 annotations tagged with the keyword "Ordinary Life"

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Edwards, Kim

Last Updated: Mar-27-2008
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Because he can't reach the hospital in a winter snowstorm, Dr. David Henry ends up assisting his own wife in the birth of their twin children at his clinic with the help of his nurse, Caroline. The boy is fine; the girl has Down symdrome. While his wife is as yet unaware, he gives the girl baby to Caroline to take to an institution. Norah, his wife, remains unaware that she give birth to two children, yet is haunted by some sense of loss she can't name. Caroline, unable to leave the baby in an unappealing institutional setting, makes a snap decision to keep her. She leaves town, renewing communication later with the baby's father, and raises her as a single mother until she meets a man who is willing to marry her and love Phoebe as a daughter.

Only after Dr. Henry dies suddenly does his wife discover the existence of her daughter, through photographs sent to him over the years by Caroline, and then a visit from Caroline and Phoebe. Sadly, but with a will to choose life on strange and demanding terms, Norah and her son, Phoebe's brother, choose to enlarge their circle of family to include a loving relationship with Phoebe, clearly her own person, and the woman and man who have cared for her.

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Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

A brooding book that sounds the death knell for optimistic views on humanity's progress through civilization, Civilization and its Discontents begins with a recapitulation of Freud's disdainful views on religion as a psychological salve and then goes on to challenge enduring platitudes about human society: that civilization has emerged as a simple marker of progress of mankind over nature, protects us against suffering, and guards our liberties and happinesses. Comparing the development of civilization to the development of individual psychologies, he sees in both an essential conflict between eros and thanatos, between the desire to be with other people and the violence committed (or wished upon) other people.

Given that civilization is a process of negotiating and structuring communities, it must also be a way of controlling and repressing both violent and libidinous instincts; it does so not only through its laws but by infiltrating our own psychologies, which Freud discusses through the filter of his structural theory (where the instinctual, unconscious drives of the id are reined in by the ego under the fierce supervision of the inwardly aggressive superego). Freud's psychological perspective is to try to make sense of individual guilt, conscience, and remorse in the broadest social context as the products of this compromise between eros and thanatos, between the individual and the group, and between satisfying one's own instinctual drives and a broader community's needs. While some of his views are redolent of turn-of-the-century anthropology, his focus on guilt, aggression, and the murderous instincts towards extermination are very much prescient, charting the next decade and a half's fall into civilization's darkest hour.

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Summary:

This book chronicles four meals, tracked from the production of the food through to the preparation and consumption of the meals themselves. The first is a fast food meal eaten in the car, the quintessential American meal consisting entirely of industrially farmed produce. Pollan then goes on to have an industrial-organic meal, an organic pasture-grown meal, and finally a meal containing only products that he foraged, hunted, and cultivated himself. Throughout, he looks closely at how economic and commercial values have supplanted ecological ones in the cultivation and production of the food we ingest. In addition to attending to the social and political dimensions of the American diet, Pollan also notes the effects of this diet on public health, from rising levels of obesity through to the antibiotic resistances developing in herds of cattle living in pens in their own manure.

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Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

The book is split into three parts, the Analytic Part, the Synthetic Part and the Theoretical Part. The Analytic Part begins with an excellent synopsis of earlier theories of comedy, joking and wit, followed by a meticulous psychological taxonomy of jokes based on such features as wordplay, brevity, and double meanings, richly illustrated with examples. This section ends with Freud's famous distinction about the "tendencies" of a joke, in which he attempts to separate those jokes that have tendencies towards hidden meanings or with a specific hidden or partly hidden purpose, from the "abstract" or "non-tendentious" jokes, which are completely innocuous. He struggles to provide any examples of the latter. In the midst of his first example, he suddenly admits that he begins "to doubt whether I am right in claiming that this is an un-tendentious joke"(89) and his next example is a joke that he claims is non-tendentious, but which he elsewhere studies quite intensely for its tendencies. Freud uses this to springboard into an exploration of how a joke involves an arrangement of people - a joketeller, an audience/listener, and a butt, often involving two (the jokester and the listener) against one, who is often a scapegoat. He describes how jokes may be sexual, "stripping" that person, and then turns towards how jokes package hostility or cynicism.

The synthetic part is an attempt to bring together the structure of the joke and the pleasurable tendencies of the joke. Why is it that jokes are pleasurable? Freud's answer is that there is a pleasure to be obtained from the saving of psychic energy: dangerous feelings of hostility, aggression, cynicism or sexuality are expressed, bypassing the internal and external censors, and thus enjoyed. He considers other possible sources of pleasure, including recognition, remembering, appreciating topicality, relief from tension, and the pleasures of nonsense and of play. Then, in a move that would either baffle his critics or is ignored by them, Freud turns to jokes as a "social process", recognizing that jokes may say more about social life at a particular time than about particular people; he turns this into an investigation of why people joke together, expanding on his economical psychic perspectives with discussions of social cohesion and social aggression.

In the third part, Freud connects his theories of joking with his dream theories in order to explain some of the more baffling aspects of joking (including how jokes seem to come from nowhere; how we usually get the joke so very quickly, even when it expresses very complicated social phenomena; and why we get a particular type of pleasure from an act of communication). He ends with an examination of some of these themes in other varieties of the comic, such as physical comedy and caricature.

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The Age of Grief

Smiley, Jane

Last Updated: Mar-15-2008
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

At dental school. Dave pursued Dana, the amazing and only woman in his class. Now married, they share a high quality private practice and raise their three little girls: Lizzie, Stephanie, and Leah. The ordinary chaos in the office and home of a professional couple is constant, though not insurmountable, and they enjoy the dental dramas of their patients, the childrens’ distinctive personalities, and the challenges of parenting. For example, two year-old Leah suddenly decides Dave is the centre of her universe, she shrieks when her previous favorite, Dana, comes near. The parents handle it together calmly without jealousy.

But Dave notices his beautiful, moody wife is drifting away; more precisely, he thinks she is having an affair. To keep this fear out of the realm of reality and confrontation, he scrupulously directs all talk toward work and kids, until his life is bent around avoiding any serious conversation with her at all. The children are anxious. He grieves for the losses of little things in their shared lives.

But when the family is felled by flu, all other problems recede. In rapid succession, children and parents collapse with fever, chills, and misery. Dave is up several nights with Leah, then he is sick himself just as Stephanie and Dana fall even more seriously ill. Drunk with fatigue and terrified that Stephanie might die, he takes her to hospital. They all recover, and the world seems harmonious. Dave begins to think he had imagined his wife’s distraction until he is jolted back to his worry when Dana vanishes.

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Nobody Else Has to Know

Tomey, Ingrid

Last Updated: Mar-12-2008
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Fifteen-year-old Webber hits a young girl, seriously injuring her, while taking a little illegal driving practice with his indulgent grandfather. Webber, himself, is injured, and unlikely to return to the track team he has loved. He has trouble remembering the accident during the first weeks of his recovery, especially since his grandfather has determined to take the blame for the accident. But as memory returns, aided by the bitter insinuations of a classmate who babysits the injured girl, Webber is torn between accepting his grandfather's cover for the sake of a clean record and an unencumbered high school career, and confessing. The technical fact that his grandfather was legally responsible for letting him drive complicates the ambiguity of his dilemma. Ultimately, he makes the decision to confess. The book concludes with his telling his grandfather of his intention--a decision that is sure to be relationally as well as legally consequential.

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The Wellspring

Olds, Sharon

Last Updated: Mar-05-2008
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This latest collection of poems by Sharon Olds is fittingly dedicated to "our daughter and son." Centered on the intense experiences of marital love and parenthood, the book can be read as a (yet unfinished) life-cycle story that begins with the poet narrator’s own conception, birth, and childhood bonds with mother and sister (Part 1). The overpowering awareness of her adolescent sexuality, romantic attachments, and the growth to womanhood, culminating in pregnancy--her daughter’s beginnings--are the subject of the poems in Part 2.

Part 3 describes the birth of her daughter and son, and the deep love and anxieties of parenting, expressed in the small details of daily life and child care. The short Part 4 is a celebration of married love, both erotic and transcendent, and of the powerful emotional connections which are the "wellspring" of human lives--that spawn the children we bring into the world and that help us to love and care for them as well.

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In the Next Galaxy

Stone, Ruth

Last Updated: Mar-05-2008
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This award-winning collection, published when the author was in her late 80s, contains 96 poems, most of them no more than one page in length. These poems are complex, interesting, surprising, and full of the pain of life. Stone has suffered and she does not hesitate to dwell on the causes of her suffering but she is not maudlin--she has lived and thought about life and she shows us how she lives and thinks.

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Bar Scene

Gorsline, Douglas

Last Updated: Feb-28-2008

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Little-and yet everything- is left to the imagination in Douglas Gorsline's Bar Scene. Seated at a crowded urban bar is a young woman. She is almost elegant in her silk blouse, fur coat and broad-brimmed black hat. Though she sits with her shoulders parallel to the picture plane, and has been placed squarely in the middle of the foreground, her thoughts-and her gaze-are clearly directed elsewhere. Standing behind her, is an older man. As he tips his head back to drink, he, too, is looking off to his left, but with eyes that are conspicuously narrowed. The lengthening ash on his cigarette suggests that his left hand has not recently moved from the woman's shoulder.

Where the smoldering cigarette gives a clue about time lapsed between the two figures in their current position in the painting, the woman's rumpled neckline invites the viewer to imagine what has transpired between the two of them in the time before they came to be seated at the bar. The woman's open blouse is bunched and gaping at her waistline as if mis-buttoned. The pointed blouse collar that is smoothed on top of her fur coat on her right, is tucked beneath on the left side. The man's shirt is also wrinkled, possibly unbuttoned behind the tie, and not tidily tucked in at the belt-line.

This foreground scene is connected with the rest of room by the line of smoke rising from the cigarette and the curve of the bar, along which are seated several single men and another couple. The setting has been recently identified as Costello's, a popular New York City bar that was well-known to the painter.[1] Though the figures themselves are not specific, the attention to the details of the space and the clothing are, suggesting that the moment Gorsline has captured was a moment observed. The painting is dated in the lower right-hand corner: 1942, a complicated period in American and world history. Although it does not take a world at war to foster relationships that are at once intimate and distant, the war certainly complicated many relationships between women and men.

[1] Marie Via, "Douglas Warner Gorsline Bar Scene [1942], " In: Marjorie Searl, ed. Seeing America: Painting and Sculpture from the Collection of the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester (Rochester, NY: Memorial Art Gallery) 2006, pp. 249-253.

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Interlude

Koch, John

Last Updated: Feb-28-2008

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Detail by detail, we are drawn into John Koch's painting, done with such precision that we are seduced into believing that he has painted precisely what was before him. His painted world is, however, an artful balancing act of realism and artifice. His interiors are like theatrical backdrops, where his models, like actors, play their roles. The drama of Interlude is actually an entr'acte--a familiar subject in Koch's work--when artist and model are taking a break. In the background, seated on a sofa, looking off to the viewer's right--the painting's "stage left"--is the artist himself. Drink in hand, he gazes intently at a canvas in process.

In the middle-ground, dressed in a brilliant red robe, is his wife, a white-haired older woman, offering the seated young woman-clearly a model because she is not dressed-a cup of tea. The model, seen from the back, sits at the very edge of a day bed. Her dark brown skin is set off against the white sheet beneath her. Especially marked, is the contrast between her outstretched arm and the older woman's red robe. The essential detail-visually as well as symbolically-is the tea cup that is about to pass between them.

In this intimate world of the artist's studio--ten stories above the streets of New York--two women are engaged in an historic reversal: a young black model is being served by an older white woman. The significance of this moment is reinforced by a detail in the setting. What initially appears to be a bank of windows behind the couch is in fact a black-framed mirror. Reflected in this mirror are the canvas in process, the goose-necked lamp that his illuminating his palette, and a bulbous lamp on an unseen table.

Interlude is signed and dated on the painting's lower right: "Koch 1963." It was painted in the same year that Martin Luther King, Jr. presented his "I Have A Dream" speech that culminated the Civil Rghts "March on Washington."

Adapted from: Susan Dodge-Peters Daiss, "John Koch, Interlude (1963). In: Marjorie Searle, ed. Seeing America: Painting and Sculpture from the Collection of the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester (Rochester, NY: Memorial Art Gallery) 2006, pp. 275-277.

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